Model tech health and best practices for your children, and family (never in the bedroom, never at meals, never first thing in the morning…).
Make sure that if you are in the midst of a tech moment and are called upon for any sort of interpersonal connection, immediately stop your “tech” and give that person your full attention.
Avert your gaze every several minutes when you use a screen. Remember to stretch and reset to keep your posture and back in good shape.
As a part of my series about 5 Ways To Create a Healthy Relationship With Screens and Technology, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Aronian, Ed.D., an award-winning educator, a former NYC public school teacher, and college professor at private and public universities across the United States. Karen holds a master’s of art, a master of education, and an education doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University. Following her post-doctoral fellowship in education policy, she established a non-profit, literacy initiative serving pre-K students, TCART4UPK.com. In response to the pandemic, she spearheaded Teacher2Neighbor.com, a volunteer community tutoring service. Karen is the principal of Aronian Education Design LLC, which creates purposeful learning spaces, curates programming, curricula, and provides coaching and staffing for corporate brands as well as private clientele. Dr. Karen makes regular appearances as a parenting and education expert in international publications, such as Parents Magazine, and is a featured columnist, speaker, podcast, radio, and television guest. She considers all people to be teachers, and believes every place can be a learning space!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
I have been working in the field of education, design, and art for three decades. My work and life experiences have crystallized my vision of creating irresistible learning spaces for children and families. I work within private homes, in academic settings, as well as for corporate brands.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Growing up in the art world, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with some of the greatest (then) living artists: Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Leroy Neiman, Larry Rivers, Roy Lichtenstein. Their homes and studio spaces exemplified the freedom of expression which became foundational for my own creative lens as an education designer.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
I just finished developing a 5-Part Modular Webinar Course for Parents, titled, “Set up Your Home (& Kids) for Learning ~ “The Aronian Education Design System”. This course gives parents teacherly tricks and tools and a plan to truly optimize their children’s learning and creative development at home.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Between work and personal life, the average adult spends nearly 11 hours looking at a screen per day. How does our increasing screen time affect our mental, physical, and emotional health?
Screens should never replace what is most vital, our personal interactions with other human beings and with nature. These essential interactions form the bedrock which sustains our mental, social-emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being. We must consistently and consciously counter our screen exposure.
Can you share your top five ways people can improve mental wellness and create a healthy relationship with technology?
- Track your tech usage and be mindful and intentional with your tech time. Take a tech day off (observe the sabbath, whether you are religious or not).
- Ask yourself, is my tech usage a “Have to” or a “Want to,” don’t give in to temptation.
- Model tech health and best practices for your children, and family (never in the bedroom, never at meals, never first thing in the morning…).
- Make sure that if you are in the midst of a tech moment and are called upon for any sort of interpersonal connection, immediately stop your “tech” and give that person your full attention.
- Avert your gaze every several minutes when you use a screen. Remember to stretch and reset to keep your posture and back in good shape.
Between social media distractions, messaging apps, and the fact that Americans receive 45.9 push notifications each day, Americans check their phones 80 times per day. How can people, especially younger generations, create a healthier relationship with social media?
If you are overconsuming tech and social media, set up timers to gauge your usage and monitor how often you sign on for virtual leisure. Establish tech ground rules and guidelines (& contracts) with your children to set up an allotted schedule (before the school day, after lunch, before dinner). Go over safety, media literacy, online manners, and consider parental filters to monitor your children’s exposure and time usage. Tech usage should align with a child’s age, development, and parent’s consent. When the non-negotiables have been achieved: child’s schoolwork, chore, exercise, their tech can be a reward. Tech is not a given. Our lives before technology were rich and multifaceted; revisit your past hobbies and enjoyments to dial back tech: bonfires, tennis, knitting, visiting & telephoning friends, baking, home improvement projects, fishing, reading, innovating, board gaming, and chess are possibilities.
80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth in the morning. What effect does starting the day this way have on people? Is there a better morning routine you suggest?
Starting the day with tech can certainly pose a serious distraction. The onslaught of morning emails and messages can divert us from important objectives, and an optimal daily routine.
Establish a mindfulness spot at home, and tune into yourself and your own (and family’s) needs before you tune in online. Practice and model morning mindfulness: meditate, read a mantra, set a tone, listen to music, look out your window, open the door, and breathe. Make tea, make breakfast, walk the dog (the kids, & yourself), write down your top 3 priorities for your day.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?
“Calamity is virtue’s opportunity.” ~Seneca
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would like people to consider:
“We are all teachers, and every place can be a learning place”.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!