When it comes to technology, today’s parents are in a bind. We love the way that devices like smartphones help us keep track of our kids, and stay connected to them throughout the day. But at the same time, headlines across the nation highlight growing trends in anxiety, depression, and loneliness–and they resonate. We are feeling these side effects in our own homes.
Overwhelmed and unsure of what to do, a group of parents in Kansas City recently began a conversation: What would it look like to pause for minute, and rethink the way we manage the gift of technology? As we began to gather around coffee tables, at the playground, and in school libraries, we uncovered a common theme: “This is hard; it’s like we are in a new frontier and there is no road map. We need someone to help us navigate this terrain.”
In May, this led us to launch START: Stand Together And Rethink Technology–a name that we love. It expresses our passion to think broadly about the role technology plays in our lives, and reveals our hunch that screens will never replace our need for authentic human connection. Indeed, if we want to teach our kids to value human relationships–parents have to stand together and show them how.
As it turns out, parents aren’t the only ones who are standing together on the importance of healthy tech use. Local police officers, doctors, pastors, librarians, business leaders and superintendents are also weighing in, sharing that this is one of the most pressing issues they see facing our community today. We are encouraged by the constant stream of affirmation we hear from the voices in our community, and we are humbled to share that pro-bono support and in-kind donations have laid the foundation for our organization to deepen our impact.
In our first eight months, we registered as a 501(c)(3), developed a strategic business plan, and organized a team of volunteers who help sustain us. We created and successfully piloted a three-part parent-education program, and engaged in dozens of meaningful conversations with community leaders about next steps we can take to support healthy tech use norms around KC. We quickly realized that the demand for resources on this topic outpaced our capacity to scale our parent program quickly. So, we launched a social media feed to provide bite-sized tips for families who are looking for ways to start rethinking technology in their own homes.
As exciting as it is to watch the momentum build and the numbers tick up, we love knowing that so much of the change we are helping create is immeasurable: Hearts are softening. Ears are perking up. Hope is stirring.
A START parent shared with us recently, “This isn’t about being finished; it’s about getting started.” We love that! We are just getting STARTed. We hope you will join us!