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Back to School and Back to the Rules: Setting Boundaries with Technology

cc0publicdomainstudentsonphonesThe months of August and September bring many changes to the lives of students. As summer winds down and a schedule is back in order, students of all ages are challenged with the task to set boundaries for themselves, especially with technology. While young children have to have boundaries set forth by them for parents, those in middle school, high school, and college students, also have troubles battling with the distractions of computers, phones, I-pods, and other technical devices. This can become a serious issue as many students, including myself, begin to feel a constant need to look at their devices, due to the compelling desire to stay plugged in with the rest of the world. Sometimes this world can be a place of learning and outlet, and other times, it can be a real addiction, that again, causes serious issues. As Andrew Hough from the Telegraph reports in his online article: Student ‘addiction’ to technology ‘similar to drug cravings’, study finds, there are many symptoms of this addiction that are truly evident in students’ lives. As he again notes in his article, a study of 1,000 students from several countries, such as America, Britain, and China, showed that many students experienced cravings like that of a drug addict while abandoning technology for just one day. He refers to a secondary article to discuss the actual results of the mentioned study, entitled: Facebook Generation Suffers Information Withdrawal Symptoms, in which science correspondent Richard Gray discusses the exact work of the researchers in this endeavor. Richard Gray refers to the work of Dr. Roman Gerondimos, a communication lecturer from the UK, who saw both psychological and physical symptoms in his UK participants during an experiment. The experiment was called “Unplugged”, and was conducted by University of Maryland’s International Centre for Media and the Public Agenda, and the results can be found here.  The article again discusses that Dr. Gerondimos believes that this addiction, faced by individuals, is real and pervasive and must be both acknowledged and addressed for the future.

I personally have been prone to addiction with technology, which is why I want to address the importance of setting boundaries for oneself, one’s children and for students in general, since this addiction to technology can really get in the way of your studies. It can definitely impact both the quality of education and life for students. More recently, I have tried to go without constantly checking my phone, email, and social media, and I start getting really antsy and nervous. This is not how I want to live my life forever, so I have been doing some self-reflection on what can be done in order to better my life. So, I would like to offer some tips to students, parents, and teachers in order to curb the addiction to technology and set real boundaries to address this phenomenon:

  • Set a real and strategic time limit for young children using technology when they are first exposed. In this strategy, it sets them up for a routine and teaches discipline in their technology usage. Explain why it is important for them to have a time limit, also, so that they can reason why they have to stop at a specific time.
  • Define your technology expectations with pre-teen and teenage students in a very clear and succinct manner. It’s important to help them understand thoroughly what you want them to do or not do on a regular basis. Some teenagers may be more autonomous with their technology usage than the younger kids and so this may involve more in-depth explanations of what is expected and the possible consequences if they don’t respect the needs.
  • Keep a journal of the time you spend using technology, such as your phone, internet, TV, Apps, games, etc. If you are a college or a university student, maintaining boundaries is generally important to give space for other leisure-related, work-related, and school-related activities. With the journal, you can re-evaluate how much time is wasted online, and decide where you can cut back and what you would gain if you had that extra time to spend on friends, family or school activities.

Again, I know how hard it is to break away from the tech world and our addiction to it. However, it becomes necessary to preserve our sense of who we are and to guard our precious time. It is my hope that these tips have helped readers to ponder the importance of setting technology boundaries.

Enjoy your additional time now!

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Negotiations and Conflict Management M.S. Program

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Facing Ourselves in Times of Conflict- The Power of Self-Reflection

brainsI am an inquisitive person. I think it is important to ask why, because I believe knowing and understanding why things and people act and behave the way they do furthers learning of the world around you. When you ask the question why, it allows you to hear the facts, draw your conclusions and apply the synthesized information into other areas of your life.

Merriam-Webster defines self-reflection as “careful thought about your own behavior and beliefs”. Self-Reflection is taking a step back from yourself and looking inward. I had been a self-reflector even before I knew there was a term for what I was doing. I have always been curious as to why I behaved or thought a certain way. I believe many people struggle with self-reflection because it is scary to admit our shortcomings. Recognizing our flaws, makes them real for us and many of us shy away from self-reflection. I am not one to shy away. I think self-reflection is essential in my life to keep myself in check.

2012 was not my best. I gained thirty pounds; I was in a different graduate school program that I did not want to be in, and my self-esteem was low. I was unhappy and negative. I had internal conflict which impacted my attitude, reactions and behaviors with others. I started asking why I felt this way through journaling. It was the most therapeutic part of my transformation process. Journaling allowed me to express and put on paper what I was thinking and feeling. I analyzed why I pursued my Masters in the first place? Why I had gained thirty pounds? Why I felt envious of my friends? As a result of journaling and self-reflection, I was able to work through these internal conflicts and I concluded it was time for a change.

I applied and enrolled into a different graduate program, started working out and eating better, and slowly my life began to change. I know journaling is not for everyone, but it allowed me to look inward and analyze myself and my behavior. I wrote when I was angry, when I was happy, when I was sad, and I began to take inventory of how I responded in those situations; and then I started to brainstorm how I could do better.

Self-Reflection Strategies:

Think about these questions as it pertains to the internal conflict you are experiencing.

#1 – Be honest.

  • What are you not speaking aloud that you know to be the truth of the situation you find yourself experiencing?
  • What is it you are embellishing in your story to others?

#2 – Be vulnerable.

  • What emotions are you experiencing right now?
  • What is causing you to feel that emotion?
    • For example: When you fought with your spouse over not taking the trash out, were you angry about that or were you taking your frustration from work out on him?

#3 – Be tough.

  • How did I contribute to this dispute?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What will I work on to prepare for next situation I encounter?

I am my harshest critic and asking myself these questions allows me to take responsibility, look at myself from another perspective, critique my behavior, and generate solutions to do better next time.

I believe self-reflection is necessary for anyone looking to address his or her internal conflict. I often say that no one can ever tell me something about myself that I haven’t already thought. My goal in life is to be the best version of myself and self-reflection is crucial to achieve success. I challenge anyone with this common purpose to do the same and find the power of self-reflection.

Abigail Clark- M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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Conflict is an Opportunity

Conflicts are comprised of three stages: before, during, and after. Before conflict you are deciding what to say, seething about what just happened, or maybe you are unaware there is a problem. The phrase “Ignorance is bliss” doesn’t apply here. Being blindsided by conflict is no picnic, but it happens.  I recently found myself in that uncomfortable scenario when an e-mail message was interpreted in a way that I did not attend. refectionThe person on the other end of the e-mail did not appreciate the tone of the e-mail that I had sent. I thought the message was friendly and warm, they perceived it to be aloof and cold. I had no time to think of an appropriate response when confronted about the e-mail. I was instantly defensive and annoyed they completely misunderstood what I thought was clear. My annoyance came out when I was asked why I was raising my voice. I had no idea I was raising my voice.

Self-awareness is the ability to be aware of one’s own personality and character in the moment. At that present moment, I was not aware I was raising my voice. When people are engaged in conflict, self-awareness is low. But after conflict, tempers and emotions have settled creating an opportunity to learn. With the right tools and strategies, you can turn conflict into a learning opportunity. Reflective practice involves learning from your own experiences. In 1988, Graham Gibbs, illustrated a reflective cycle in his book Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods that consisted of six stages:

1. Description – What happened during the conflict?

2. Feeling – What were you thinking and/or feeling during the conflict?

3. Evaluation – What was good and/or bad about the conflict interaction?

4. Analysis – What was your perception of the conflict?

5. Conclusions – What else could have been done?

6. Action – What would you do if it happened again?

Journaling and talking through the conflict interactions can be another way to learn from your conflict interaction. After your next conflict try this: Take a deep breath (consciously taking a breather can calm your nerves and keep you grounded), grab a journal, your laptop, or even a friend and go through Gibbs reflective cycle. You will be surprised at what you learn.

By Tracy Culbreath

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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