Ask the Experts: Rachael Kent
Recently the team at Tech-Break HQ spoke with a child psychologist, Rachael Kent (Lecturer in Digital Economy & Society Education, King’s College London), about the worsening problem of tech addictions, the effects it is having on the family and the power of Tech-Break.
How has the pandemic affected tech addiction in society or our overusing of devices?
Dr Rachael Kent: “The pandemic has accelerated the adoption and saturation of digital tech use to manage everyone’s everyday lives. It has normalised the increasing integration of apps and platforms for the everyday person to manage everyday tasks; working from home, home-schooling, retail, food delivery, sociality, health, fitness, and more.”
Why is it important for children to see their parents having screen free time and to take tech breaks collectively, rather than just enforcing it for the kids?
Dr Rachael Kent: “To lead by example and recognise and promote that life off the screen is just as (arguably even more) valuable, nourishing and healthy for our mental and physical health. Sociality face to face provides more social skills, engagement and fun, rather than mediated via a screen.”
What are your long-term concerns for children and teens when they grow into adulthood?
Dr Rachael Kent: “My long-term concerns are that children will lose out developmentally on social skills enabled by face-to-face contact. It is important children develop coping strategies that aren’t mediated via digital devices, and for their mental and physical health, find joy and pleasure in analogue methods of entertainment. Examples of these being in nature, reading books, physical play, playing instruments, social time with friends, communication with family face to face etc.”
From a child’s point of view, why would a product like Tech-Break be more understandable when it comes to screen free time?
Dr Rachael Kent: “Because it creates a tangible division and restrictive physical separation between children and devices, which is arguably easier for a child to understand why they cannot use said device. This is also a tool conceivably external to a parent’s ‘rule’, which may be perceived by children as autonomous and separate. They will therefore have to accept ‘Tech Break’ makes and enforces the rules of the digital detox, rather than the parent, potentially minimising disputes.”
Psychologically speaking, why do you think society needs help with controlling tech usage and tech discipline at home?
Dr Rachael Kent: “It is important to remember that we are living in a digital economy which wants our attention across converging platforms as much as possible. It is also very important to remember that regulation has, as yet, not been able to keep up with these expanding personal data economies, whilst we have to simultaneously navigate a tsunami of misinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories.
Furthermore, at the moment, for many of us, we don’t have much of an option to switch off when so many life domains are managed via our digital devices. Therefore, this increasing digital saturation has meant we are becoming more reliant on our devices than ever before, making it increasingly difficult to switch off, disengage and detox. This makes us compulsive towards these digital tools’ integration in our everyday, which can then lead to tech fatigue, digitally induced stress and anxiety via social media lifestyle comparisons, excessive scrolling, and an ‘always on’ work culture, to name just a few impacts.”
Dr Rachael Kent
Lecturer in Digital Economy & Society Education, King’s College London.
Digital Habits Researcher & Academic – Dr Rachael Kent has done extensive research in family’s usage of Tech and the impact that digital reliance, including that throughout Covid-19, is having on society. Her research is particularly carried out around younger generations.