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Research & Discovery

Our thoughts on families, wisdom and technology

Happiness is a blend of all parts of life. Family, nature, knowledge and a sense of belonging socially are big pieces of existing happily. Underlying all these needs, we now have technologies that are new and untested as to how they will affect human society. Balance is key and almost every parent we speak with senses that we are now due for a reconciliation of our time, attention and human nature.

Norms are shifting as younger children have more access to more devices and content than any other time in human history. But there are still only 24 hours in a day. As time is spent on digital devices watching YouTube Kids or playing Fortnite that means less time playing with friends who live in the neighborhood, being outdoors or just using imagination. Parents face constant peer pressure via their children's perceived norms of what their friends are allowed to do. Almost all families seem stretched to create the time they'd like together to just be.

Amidst the chaos of school, sports for the kids and work pressure for the adults, there are tectonic shifts in how we live and related to each other as families. For those listening, we hear in multiple recent articles published in the likes of the New York Time, Washington Post and BBC that now is the time that our society is seeking to actually change behaviors. We're now admitting to each other that we must find a new integration of this digital reality with the historically tangible reality we grew up in.

At Inspirational, our work is to listen to you all to find the events in life that we can reclaim with this new balance. And in the quiet, focused spaces we create, offer your family healthy, collaborative discussions and activities to reconnect in genuine ways.

Our first focus is on dinner. It is the last great shared ritual of families. No matter how busy and scattered life may appear, the family works very hard to protect that time, honor and respect it. But we've found that now with the newly perceived "always on" burdened mentality of responsibilities, most parents do not obey their own rules of "no devices at the dinner table." Most of you admit that your children will say to you that you're breaking the rules as you check texts and calls regularly at the table or walk into the other room to check your phone. Without being asked, you volunteered that you feel that it's wrong for you or your spouse to not be the role model that you feel you can in this respect. The pattern to these responses and reflections from parents is striking. You want to change.

The other area of interest is when we asked what you do as a family with your dinner time, the responses are lacking the depth that you'd like. At the end of the day, people are tired and not fully engaging or present, yet they still have a belief and desire to do better. Quick questions and one word responses about the day are the norm for many. There is a collective sense that this "sacred time" for the family can be elevated.

Lastly, when we ask how you pass wisdom on to your kids, it's a hard question for most to answer. It's probably the most complex in terms of generating a long pause and then asking questions in return, defining what we mean by wisdom. We mean talking and teaching what kindness, generosity, patience and love are and how you deepen your understanding of them to become a beautiful person in the world. Most of you, after reflecting, will say that it's almost always reactive to some bad behavior of children. In the best case, if you slow things down and focus on it, you may explain why what happened has a lesson.

Where did the proactive time to pass wisdom to kids go? Some of you take part in an active weekly religious tradition, but increasingly fewer do. Virtues and values that have connected us universally are being replaced by stronger identities to race, class, sports and the country in which one lives.

With the gap between time spent focusing virtues and digital entertainment that is often virtue-less, we are collectively reprogramming a generation. Parents used to be the purveyors of wisdom as we recall, "my parents used to always tell me." But now they seem to be curators of content. Instead of telling and teaching directly, for some the role of the parent has become solely the selector and enforcer of what can and can't be watched and for how long.

When and where did these rituals start to slip away?At Inspirational, we are helping to recreate healthy boundaries for celebrating the amazing things digital can offer without losing sight of traditions, rituals and wisdom that make us the unique creation of humanity.

With all the challenges we face as a species now, passing on wisdom and respecting each other's presence has never been more vital. Our first products will use the feedback given to help reclaim your dinner time together and elevate the time to help rekindle the art of passing on wisdom, values and virtues. We hope you'll join the effort and support this by passing on this study to your trusted networks and asking them to provide feedback.

I am grateful to have this work creating space and balance for families. We look forward to hearing how it changes the energy and feel of your time together at home.

-James Yancey, Founder, Inspirational

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