Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Kids today are lacking these psychological nutrients

The key to raising indistractable kids is to first determine why they're distracted.

NIR EYAL: There's only two places in society where we can tell people where to go, what to think, what to eat, who to be friends with, how to dress, and that's school and prison.

How do we raise indistractable kids? As the father of a tech-loving 11-year-old, I remember when my daughter was only two years old and some of her first words were "iPad time, iPad time." Well, we want to make sure that we are raising our kids in a way that they themselves can deal with distraction. I think this will be the skill of the century. So there's a few things that we need to realize following the indistractable model. When it comes to raising indistractable kids we need to find the root cause of why our kids are getting distracted and not be satisfied with just blaming the proximal cause. Parents have been blaming all sorts of things for their kids' bad behavior for generations. In my generation it was video games or television. Before that it was the radio. All the way back to the written word was blamed for causing distraction. And when it comes to kids these days, people find some reason why kids are behaving the way they are. But as opposed to being satisfied with just the proximal cause. let's dive deeper to understand why kids overuse technology.

A very widely accepted theory of human motivation says that all of us need three things for psychological well-being. According to self-determination theory we require a sense of competence, autonomy, and relatedness. And when we are denied those things the needs displacement hypothesis says that we look for them wherever we can get them. And when we look at kids' lives today they are deficient in these three psychological nutrients. Consider competence. With the rise of standardized testing a good number of kids these days are constantly told that they're not good enough. They're not competent in their school activities. And when they feel that way they look for competency elsewhere. Well, of course, the tech companies are more than happy to give them a feeling of competency when they play a game online.

Now consider kids' sense of autonomy. This is the most overscheduled generation in history. Between after school activities like Kumon and swimming lessons and Mandarin, kids have very little time for free play. And for those families who can't afford all those after school activities many parents are scared to death by the message we've heard in the media that our kids are somehow going to be abducted at any minute. It turns out that this is the safest generation in American history and those fears are unfounded. And yet many parents keep their kids at home where they have little choice but to look for a sense of agency and control through their devices. So when kids are constantly scheduled throughout their day and restrictions placed on them, they look for a place where they can feel agency and autonomy. In fact, researchers tell us that kids today have ten times the number of restrictions placed on them as an average adult, twice as many as an incarcerated felon. And so when kids don't feel a sense of autonomy offline, they look for it online. They play Fortnite or Minecraft or whatever other game because that's where they feel like gods. They own that environment. They have a sense of agency and control that they so severely lack offline.

Finally consider relatedness. Researchers tell us that kids today have very little time for free play. Not supervised by coaches or parents, but time to just be kids. It turns out that free play is incredibly psychologically nourishing. Free play is where we understand others and are understood ourselves. We need this time for proper socialization. But kids have less time for free play than ever. And so when they don't get that sense of relatedness offline, where do they go? Well, they go to Instagram or Snapchat or TikTok. These apps, these social media companies give kids the sense of relatedness that they're striving for. So the root cause of overuse in most kids' lives is not the technology itself but rather the fact that they are missing these three critical psychological nutrients of competency, autonomy, and relatedness.

  • When it comes to the rules and restrictions placed on children, author and Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer Nir Eyal argues that they have a lot in common with another restricted population in society: prisoners. These restrictions have contributed to a generation that overuses and is distracted by technology.
  • Self-determination theory, a popular theory of human motivation, says that we all need three things for psychological well-being: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When we are denied these psychological nutrients, the needs displacement hypothesis says that we look for them elsewhere. For kids today, that means more video games and screen time.
  • In order to raise indistractable kids, Eyal says we must first address issues of overscheduling, de-emphasize standardized tests as indicators of competency, and provide them with ample free time so that they can be properly socialized in the real world and not look to technology to fill those voids.




Live tomorrow! Unfiltered lessons of a female entrepreneur

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT tomorrow.

Improving Olympic performance with asthma drugs?

A study looks at the performance benefits delivered by asthma drugs when they're taken by athletes who don't have asthma.

Image source: sumroeng chinnapan/Shutterstock
Culture & Religion
  • One on hand, the most common health condition among Olympic athletes is asthma. On the other, asthmatic athletes regularly outperform their non-asthmatic counterparts.
  • A new study assesses the performance-enhancement effects of asthma medication for non-asthmatics.
  • The analysis looks at the effects of both allowed and banned asthma medications.

Keep reading Show less

Weird science shows unseemly way beetles escape after being eaten

Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.

Surprising Science
  • A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
  • The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
  • Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.
Keep reading Show less

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

Keep reading Show less

Why are we fascinated by true crime stories?

Several experts have weighed in on our sometimes morbid curiosity and fascination with true crime.

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
  • True crime podcasts can get as many as 500,000 downloads per month. In the Top 100 Podcasts of 2020 list for Apple, several true crime podcasts ranked within the Top 20.
  • Our fascination with true crime isn't just limited to podcasts, with Netflix documentaries like "Confessions of a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes" scoring high popularity with viewers.
  • Several experts weigh in on our fascination with these stories with theories including fear-based adrenaline rushes and the inherent need to understand the human mind.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast