Home Audiology Promoting Healthy Communication in a Tech-Driven World

Promoting Healthy Communication in a Tech-Driven World

by Francine Pierson
Happy black father and daughter having fun while using digital tablet while mother is next to them.

In the midst of January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES)—an annual spectacle showcasing the latest and greatest (and some not-so-great) technologies set to transform our daily lives and society at large—ASHA came to Las Vegas espousing a different message than most.

Via the Healthy Communication & Popular Technology Initiative, ASHA promoted balanced use of technology and the irreplaceable role of face-to-face interaction in children’s communication, social and overall development, along with the critical need to practice safe listening.

Surprisingly, reception for ASHA’s message among the audience of tech enthusiasts was highly positive.

Below are observations from the show, as well as opportunities for ASHA members to become trusted sources of advice—through media, public and community outreach—on tech overload. As always, please note this initiative addresses technology for entertainment purposes and not for people who use augmentative and alternative communication.

Takeaways on tech use

Several themes emerged from discussions ASHA staff had with hundreds of attendees about popular technology use:

  • Many in the tech industry appreciate ASHA’s message. Almost all attendees who visited the ASHA booth offered words of support and appreciation. Many people stopped to say way to go, thank you for being here, and this is necessary, while lamenting what they see as breakdowns in communication—such as families at restaurants staring at their screens instead of talking and interacting.
  • Seemingly everyone struggles with finding balance. Attendees all agreed that we all spend too much time checking email, messaging, posting on social media and playing games. Finding realistic solutions is the tough part.
  • Technology isn’t going away, but it is always evolving. The genie is not going back in the bottle when it comes to reliance on the personal technology that has completely transformed our lives in the past decade. However, there will be some move away from screens in coming years. This trend is already starting with growing popularity of voice assistants, and will continue in the near term, with much more immersive technologies in the longer term. This change may bring some solutions, as faces will be buried in screens less, but may bring up other issues .

Angles for ASHA members

ASHA’s Healthy Communication & Popular Technology Initiative aims to promote balanced, healthy use of technology. It’s not anti-technology. Communication professionals can “own” this issue on a number of fronts. With tech overuse and misuse now a top parenting concern—and with so much conflicting advice—members can take a lead on this relevant grassroots topic in their communities. Some angles you can use include:

  • Technology use in young children. In addition to sharing guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on appropriate use of screens, members can educate about how interpersonal communication, verbal interactions, eye contact, gestures, reading, music, and everyday play (free from technological distractions) promote speech-language development and social communication at this critical juncture in a child’s life. They can also provide advice for using technology with kids so they reap the benefits of parental interaction.
  • Hearing protection and technology. This builds on the initiative’s predecessor campaign, Listen To Your Buds. Today the message of safe listening is more relevant than ever. Offer tips for hearing protection and early signs of hearing trouble.
  • Balanced use—for kids and adults. Technology is necessary for school and work, as well as many forms of play, so offer “digital diet” advice. ASHA has a plethora of suggestions to draw from here, here, and here.
  • Inter-generational communication and technology. Whether it’s between parents (or grandparents) and children at home, or millennials, GenX-ers and baby boomers in the workplace, technology has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. While this technology brings convenience, it can also bring frustration, misunderstandings and other communication breakdowns. This is a rich topic where guidance can be helpful.

Ideal times of year to peg your outreach

Specific calendar opportunities lend themselves to a more receptive audience. Below are suggested times to peg any outreach, whether to a local media station, in your workplace, or on your blog or social media:

  • New Year: Tech resolutions to tackle as an individual, couple or family.
  • National screen-free week: Recognized around the first week of May each year, this week is promoted by groups such as AAP and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
  • Beginning of summer: More leisure time may mean more screen time for children—and parents are looking for guidance.
  • Back to school: As with the New Year, this is a time for starting fresh for kids and families. Many parents aim to set new boundaries about tech use at the outset of the school year.

ASHA offers ready-made resources, including infographics, articles, “digital diet” advice and more, for you to use in whole or part. Through the Healthy Communication & Popular Technology Initiative, new materials are continuously created and distributed. Take a look at the Initiative’s Medium site and the website.

This is a wonderful opportunity to promote the professions, spotlight communication, and key in on something just about everyone cares about—in one way or another.

Francine Pierson is an ASHA public relations manager. fpierson@asha.org.

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