The Pursuit of Health in a Modern World

Yes, I do agree that right now, technology is making us unhealthy. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and I have a great deal of faith in technology and in humanity to find balance between health and technology. Hence I will maintain my position, sitting here on this fence.


Photo Credit: theirhistory via Compfight cc

Technology will be part of our world for the rest of our foreseeable lives. Ms Brunner believes that children must become accustomed to technology because the digital world is here to stay, and will continue to offer its vast amount of benefits. The digital world “lets us communicate and share and compete and play and inform each other and plan together. All of that is good for everybody, including kids, within some boundaries. Just like there have to be rules of conduct in real life, there have to be smart rules of conduct in digital life.” (Brunner, 2011)

Although I believe that these blogs are a place to connect academically, I would guess that Katia and Alec also have the intentions of us connecting on a personal level. I am a strong believer in sharing narratives between colleagues and even students, and therefor I am supposing that this is the blog post where I go ahead and expose myself to all of my tech savvy colleagues.  At the end of the term, we are supposed to choose 3 people who have most significantly influenced us and our learning. I don’t think this is possible by simply connecting to someones thoughts on an academic level, I think that who we choose to say influences us will be based on a personal level as well. I believe that a huge part of learning occurs when you make yourself vulnerable, which is what this is for me. Perhaps, this blog entry will allow you to connect with me. Perhaps not.

I am Nicole, and I don’t have facebook. I don’t have Twitter, I don’t have an iPAD and I don’t have cable. What I do have, is a husband and two energetic children: my son turned 3 this week and my daughter is almost 2 (you do the math). And of course, a rowdy classroom of 28 Grade 5 students. Can’t forget about them!


The way in which we live our lives in not anti-technology. My husband and I stream TV when our kids are in bed, and we both have laptops. We listen to a ton of music and podcasts. We both text too much and I do throw up pictures here and there of my kids on instagram because they are so freaking hilarious. But we do try really, really, hard to balance our technology use for the purpose of our own health and the health of our children on a daily basis. So the result of this means that when our kids are awake, we dont turn on a TV. We haul our kids outside about 360 days a year. We crush books, and we cook, and and we break toys and make rather large messes and spend a lot of face to face time with them because we find that when technology isn’t in the moment, we do actually have lot of time to be face to face. And because when I went on my first mat leave, I made it a traumatic, difficult, awful goal for myself to not use my phone for texting and random randomness when I’m with my kids, and not to have a TV on. (As best I can, obviously. When both kids where screaming at me, and one was nursing, it was all I could do to not go plant one of them in front of something… ANYTHING). But this is not what I wanted my kids to think I looked like:


Photo Credit: hotrodnz via Compfight cc

In my very short time as a parent I have been heavily criticized on my (some say extreme) limiting of technology in our home probably more than the parent who allows their child the 7 hours of screen time a day. So ultimately, I don’t say much about it anymore to other people. (This is the part that makes me vulnerable in sharing with you folks.) It is unfortunate because in no way do the choices I make for may family mean that I am judging yours, if your goals are different. I see so, so much value in technology for adults and for kids! I know my kids are going to access technology, even soon. I know they are going to have phones. I know they are going to have days when they want to plant their butts in front of the TV for 8 hours, as do I sometimes! What I hope, is that we can establish healthy habits first and entertain more moments of rough, tumble, outdoor play driven by curiosity and imagination in the short period in a child’s life where this is all they need. My husband and I believe that they need to connect to nature and build relationships at this age, but not relationships devices. As Carol Dwek says: “Not yet”.  When the time comes, we hope to teach them how to have a healthy and happy and FUN relationship with technology. I don’t live my life this way because of a Ted Talk, but if there was one I liked, here is is. Check it out.

I am a person who is motivated by good health, being involved in sports, and am an advocate of spending time outdoors and getting enough physical activity. Clearly, the topic of health is important to me. As a teacher, I put a huge amount of effort and priority into getting my class outside and moving as much as I possibly can. Because we are near Douglas Park, we take a lot of our work outside and try to escape the school building frequently. In winter too. (This year we merged the tech in, we used GPS and took the iPads outside for many activities..shhhhhh….) However, health is so much more than being fit. In the article Rich kids use the Internet to get ahead, and poor kids use it ‘mindlessly’ author Jeremy Olshan analyzes Robert Putnam’s research  which “explores why the divide between the prospects of rich and poor kids in the U.S. has grown so much since the 1950s” and states that “changes in family structure, geographical and social-class segregation exacerbated the problem. As for technology, most of the kids Putnam profiles in the book had smartphones, but the poorest ones tended to use the devices “in completely different, mindless ways,” he said. “Not that this is their fault.” (Olshan. 2015). Out of the demographic I teach, I have specifically noticed a correlation between who I would classify as “unhealthy” students in my class and their reported use of technology. I can also throw in a third factor, which we can chalk it to being socioeconomic issues ultimately working against the “health” of my students.

Many (not all) of my students who use technology mindlessly and for hours on end, are home alone or with older siblings who are caring for them. Many (not all) of their parents are working, very hard at low paying jobs, among struggling with other social and economic issues that are at play in their lives. I am sure that most of these parents wish that they could be spending more face to face time with their children. But unfortunately, that is a privilege. My children, like many (not all) in my class whose technology is monitored by parents, are privileged. My kids are privileged with the time and attention of 2 parents who are employed by one job each, financially stable and educated enough on some of the challenges that children are faced with when it comes to technology to make a (hopefully) well informed decision about this very topic. My children do not have parents who are working 2, 3, 4 jobs with back to back shifts and terrible hours. They are not being raised or cared for in the foster care system, their parents are not battling incarceration or addiction or complicated health issues and they have healthy food on the table. While questioning if technology makes kids healthy or unhealthy is a very real issue, so is questioning the increasing rate of poverty facing families in Saskatchewan.

Here comes the ‘disagree’ side in our recent debate. After reading this, you must think that I would take the side of the ‘agree’ team. As a fence sitter, I do not!

In the article, Researchers: Forget Internet Abstinence; Teens Need some Online Risk, it is stated that “If adults want to help teenagers learn how to handle the big risks of Internet usage, the best thing they can do is to let them get used to handling smaller risks situations.” Four very real areas are discussed. Teens are subject to four very real online risk scenarios, and asked to reflect about their experiences.

  • Information breaches
  • Online harassment
  • Sexual solicitations
  • Exposure to explicit content

At this point, I am noticing a bit of a gap in this class being a parent of very young children and a teacher to students who are not allowed to have devices in class, and a handful do not even own them. Its clear that some of the issues we are discussing are very different when comparing high schools to elementary schools. At the same time, I loved reading this article because it really made me think and it pushed me a bit outside my comfort zone.

Ultimatley, after thoughtful reflection and response, it was found that “researchers said they were concerned about how teens “appeared to be desensitized to their online risk experiences,” they also noted that it was “good” that their participants also didn’t seem to be “adversely affected” and, in fact, showed resilience in dealing with problems as a matter of routine.”  Very, very interesting. Thanks so much to this debated team for bringing this article in. It has given me all new perspective, which I am sure was your intention!

That’s all for now. Like I said, I have a feeling that after this entry, some of you may find yourselves connecting with my views, while others do not at all. As an active person, I have really really struggled with the amount of time that I have spend behind a laptop during my graduate work. As this is my 8th class and I am nearing the end, I will very much miss the learning I have experienced. But I will NOT miss, the sitting down. We spent our morning out the cross country ski trails at Echo Valley Provincial Park, where we often go with our kids (along with White Butte). Check out either spot sometime if you have never been, both are beautiful and protect some of Saskatchewan’s last remaining  native prairie. It may provide some balance for you, as it did for me today. Now I am ready to tech.


Photo: Nicole Putz. And no, I wouldn’t have been able to capture this moment in nature without my iPhone. Go technolgy!







5 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Health in a Modern World

  1. Well said, Nicole!!! I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing and respect your honesty in choosing to share at a personal level. I learn best from the narratives that everyone shares, there’s always a piece of the story that hits home.

    I also agree with your comment about the increased screen time that comes with graduate work – taking all of my classes online has changed our family evenings and weekend time and like you mention I will miss the connections and the learning. I won’t miss the screen time and am in fact making of list of all the non-cyber world things I’d like to do when I have the time 🙂


  2. Pingback: Tech-addict? Tech-Balanced? Is it really changing us or has it already? – What's Your Story?

  3. I really appreciate your honestly and vulnerability Nicole. You make so many great posts about the privileges many children have in having their screen time limited. You’ve given me many new things to ponder this week.


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