Maria LeRose Hosts a Digital Detox Panel With Dr. Shapka at Heart-Mind 2019: Part One

Maria LeRose with her granddaughter Rosie, enjoying digital-free quality time together.

For our upcoming conference, Heart-Mind 2019: The Art + Science of Calm, we are thrilled to share that event moderator Maria LeRose will host a Digital Detox Panel with developmental psychologist, digital researcher, and UBC professor Dr. Jennifer Shapka. Before the conference we will challenge four people with diverse backgrounds and digital lifestyles to abstain from social media for two weeks and to journal  about their experiences. During the panel, they will share their stories with conference participants with Maria moderating the discussion, and Dr. Shapka offering her scientific perspective. 

Questions about our own digital health are arising for many of us. Research indicates a number of harmful effects of social media use including depression, and we witness these negative patterns impacting the young people, or ”digital natives”, in our lives. A recent study found that the number of 12th graders exhibiting high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33% between 2010 and 2015. This finding is considered to be correlated to the rise of smartphone use during this time period (Twenge, 2017).

Both this rising current of research, along with her personal relationship with technology, was what initially compelled Maria to organize the Digital Detox Panel in connection with this year's conference theme of calm, and our exploration of the evidence-informed practices that support the optimum well-being of children and youth. A self-described “early adopter” now in her early sixties, Maria has continually sought the “latest and greatest” available at the apex of technology. While appreciative of the benefits of technology–the ease at connecting with others, and the breadth of knowledge accessible online–LeRose has become increasingly self-aware of her tendency to compulsively consume information to excess. Consequently, she has developed some strategies to limit the intrusion of technology in her life: turning off all notifications, keeping her phone in a separate room in the evenings in order to focus on connecting face to face with her husband, and using an old-fashioned alarm clock rather than keeping her phone by her side 24/7.

Having recently become a grandmother to 9-month-old Rosie, Maria has observed her own impulse to check her phone, or snap a photo when with her young granddaughter. While Rosie’s parents try their best to keep her away from screens, Maria has also noted how rapidly Rosie becomes transfixed at the first glimpse of a flashy, pixelated screen in the room. With this in mind, LeRose has pondered how she–and generations to come–might best take advantage of technology by using it with care, while minimizing the harms that digital overuse can cause. How can we be our most resilient, calm, and mindful selves while optimizing the benefits of technology? How can we best manage stress amidst the expectations of continual engagement with the digital era? How can we model and support the young people in our lives with healthy online habits? And how can we act as drivers rather than passengers of our online devices? Stay tuned for Part Two of this blog post, where Dr. Shapka will share some of the research and ideas that will be discussed in further depth at the Digital Detox Panel at Heart-Mind 2019: The Art and Science of Calm, on October 25 in Vancouver, BC. 

Tickets to the conference are available via Eventbrite.

Maria LeRose is an award-winning television producer and interviewer. She holds a Masters in Education with a concentration on social and emotional learning. For 17 years Maria has been an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. She is a communications and education consultant and designs and moderates large scale learning events. A highlight of her year is moderating the annual Heart-Mind Conference!

Dr. Jennifer Shapka is a Professor in the area of Human Development, Learning and Culture at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. As a developmental psychologist, Dr. Shapka is interested in identifying how contextual factors are contributing to developmental wellbeing for children and adolescents. To this end, she was one of the pioneer researchers in Canada looking at the impact of what it means for kids to be growing up in a digital age, where technology has infiltrated most aspects of their lives. She is particularly interested in social-emotional and cognitive outcomes, and has published and presented on topics such as parenting around technology, cyberbullying, adolescent’s understanding of online privacy, and self-regulation around technology. Dr. Shapka is a Killam award winner, and she earned her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.


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