A Father's New Year Letter To His Daughter Growing Up In A Digital World

09/01/2018 14:25 GMT | Updated 09/01/2018 14:25 GMT

Let’s go lo-tech to better understand hi-tech

Dear Daughter,

Some say life’s a box of chocolates. I rather think it’s more like a Rubik’s Cube — The twists, the turns, the numerous moves you can make — Right? Wrong? — It takes some working out and frankly, I’m still trying!

You’ve just turned 13. Over the years I’ve watched as you’ve grown and changed . First taking small tentative steps, and then then as you’ve become more assured and confident in yourself, exploring, probing, questioning and disrupting the world around you.

That world though has been growing and changing along with you and perhaps at an even greater pace.

An Age of Great Acceleration

We increasingly live in an interconnected world — By 2020 there will be over 50 Billion connected devices globally — and the past decade has seen a dramatic rise in the speed and scale of these interdependencies.

Without doubt, we now live in an age of great acceleration. Everything has just got faster and slicker —  communication, the iteration of ideas, the sharing of opinions — how we access stuff — how it serves us.

But what about the protocols that govern those interactions?

And this is not me writing to you as a grumpy, out of touch dad.

Although, I do admit I’m stumped by Twitter acronyms, bemused by Snapchat  and I would never dream of Instagramming my breakfast.

I’d like to think that I’m in the same part of the ball park as Steven Spielberg here, who says: “Technology can be our best friend, technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives”.

And it can poop in all manner of ways

I know that already your phone is more than a toy to you — It’s a life-support system. And I understand that you will be under enormous pressure from social media, your peers and what you read and see around you.

It would be tempting to leave you alone— but you know I won’t. I can’t expect you to self-regulate yet — at 15, or 16, I hope yes — but not at 13, and you already have mood swings that I know are the direct result of online interactions.

Did you know that one-in-6 children in the UK are unhappy at the age of 15? That the modal onset for depression is now 13 years of age and by 2030 the World Health Organisation forecasts that mental health issues will dominate global health spending.

So, I’m introducing a phone curfew from 8pm every evening. Starting now!

New Rules For A New Year

It may seem hard, but actually I’m behind the curve here.

The family peeps at Apple, Facebook, Google et al, have all been limiting screen time and access to other technology for their children, for some time now. In part to protect them from the risks of on-line bullying, pornography and what hours and hours of unchecked screen surfing might do to a developing mind.

They take it all very seriously, and any form of screen is banned from bedrooms, whilst children under 10 are limited to between 30 minutes and 2 hours at the weekend, and 10–14 year olds are only allowed access to screens on school nights to do homework.

Tough love?

Perhaps, but cyber-bullying is very real and the web is vast and can be a very dark place.

I want you to understand that concepts such as trust, honesty, integrity, showing respect to others and kindness to those less fortunate and capable than yourself, are the building blocks of a healthy self-regard and a ‘well society’.

Pro-social behaviour is the corner-stone of wellness, wellbeing and well doing. You have a unique and wonderful future that will be a gift to the world. I don’t want you to be pressured, or bullied into being someone or something you’re not, just so you can fit in.

I just simply want for you what the Russian poet Pushkin wanted, when he wrote: “Blessed be those who in youth are young”.

With much love…”

Paul Mudd is the author of ‘Uncovering Mindfulness: In Search Of A Life More Meaningful’ available on Amazon and; the ‘Coffee & A Cup of Mindfulness’ and the ‘Mindful Hacks For Mindful Living & Mindful Working’ series. He is an occassional conributor to The Huffington Post and a Contributing Writer to Thrive Global.