Ep 120: The #1 Reason Teens Turn to Tech…

Episode Summary

Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable and Hooked and former lecturer at Stanford University, offers new insight into why teens get so “addicted” to technology. Nir suggests the problem might not be as insurmountable as we thought and has a method for how to become indistractable.

Show NotesParenting ScriptsInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

It’s so frustrating when kids seem infinitely more invested in their Fortnite match than the stack of homework sitting on their desk, or intent on binging Emily in Paris when they should be practicing their violin! In our modern world, where technology surrounds us, it seems that we’re all prone to getting caught up in all the distractions offered by our devices. We know our kids are smart and capable–if only they grew up in a world with no social media or streaming sites…right?

Although it’s tempting, blaming our kids’ tendency towards distractions on technology isn’t going to get us anywhere. Even when we take their phones away and limit their access to facebook and Instagram, it seems that they still get distracted, still procrastinate, still don’t put in their full effort! There’s got to be a better way.

Today we’re talking to the brilliant Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life and Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Along with teaching  business at Stanford University and prospering as an entrepreneur, Nir has written widely on how people become hooked by technology, highlighting what exactly it is keeps us coming back for more. In our interview, he talks specifically about how parents can help kids dodge the technological distractions they so often fall prey to.

In Nir’s eyes, the ability of young folks to free themselves from distraction is the key to a successful future. So how can we help kids get there? The answer is a lot more complicated than just simply limiting their technology use. It involves digging deeper into what’s triggering the technology ues in the first place…

Understanding Internal Triggers

When we think of the word “distraction”, we tend to think of noises or sights around us that make it hard to concentrate. While these are certainly part of our inability to focus, Nir shines light on what he believes are the most potent forces of distraction: our anxiety, boredom, dread, and confusion. Nir defines these as “internal triggers”, differentiating them from”external triggers” like the beeping of a car alarm or TV playing the news in the background. 

These internal triggers are too often left out of the conversation when discussing distraction! As parents, it can be tempting  to blame our kids’ concentration issues on circumstance or believe that we’re simply helpless when it comes to rebuking the distractions of tech. In reality, the solution to the problem lies in dealing with whatever it is kids are struggling with internally. 

This use of procrastination to deal with bigger internal problems is similar to drowning out emotional issues with drugs or alcohol, Nir says. It’s not alcohol that drives alcoholism,  it’s the emotional conflict or inner turmoil of the alcoholic that causes their unhealthy behavior. The same goes for technology, he explains. We overuse and find distraction when we’re trying to avoid dealing with feelings we’d rather push away.

So if your kid is a procrastinator, don’t worry–it’s not a character flaw, Nir emphasizes. Teens just need to learn to process whatever negative emotion they might be feeling. If they can get to the bottom of what’s keeping them productivity,  they can begin to tackle the task at hand. In the episode, Nir talks more about how you can help teens deal with these deeper issues, instead of just placing restrictions on their tech use and hoping things will get better.

Why Teens Go Online When They’re Unhappy Offline

You might be wondering, what unpleasant feelings might be acting as internal triggers for my kid? Nir breaks down three main things kids need to be happy, and explains how they often look to the online landscape when they can’t get these things in real life.

The first thing kids need is to feel competent. Unfortunately, this feeling is hard for kids to achieve in our modern day school system, Nir says. Nowadays, kids are always being subjected to test after test, a process which tends to make them feel pretty incompetent. But when they’re on Minecraft building fantastical structures, winning a game of Super Smash Brothers or watching their Instagram post rake in the likes, they suddenly feel that competence they desire! If we want kids to stop seeking approval online, we need to make sure they’re getting it in real life, Nir says.

Teenagers also need autonomy, Nir explains, another thing they’re often not given nowadays. Teens are always being told where to go, how to dress, what to think, who they can and can’t talk to…the list goes on. When they go online, however, they’re able to do whatever they wish, basically unsupervised. They’re free to create, vent and explore! If teens felt as though they were able to have such freedom offline, they likely  wouldn’t be so distracted by the online world.

Finally, Nir explains how teens need relatedness–they need to understand others and feel understood. Unfortunately, even before the pandemic, kids in today’s world were more isolated than ever before. Nir notes that kids were once free to run around and play together, but now their schedules are  full with math classes and flute lessons instead. Kids need to be around each other, however, leading them to seek the companionship they need online.

In the episode, Nir and I discuss how you can mitigate these problems to create a child who has a healthy relationship with the internet. Once you teach kids to handle their emotions and get a grip on their internal triggers, they’ll be one step closer to defeating distraction. We’re not done. however. Nir’s got a few extra tips on what to do once you’ve got those internal triggers in the bag.

Other Tips To Tackle Distractions

A big part of avoiding distraction is time management. Nir emphasizes the idea of making time for “traction”…the opposite of “distraction!” This means structuring your time around achieving your goals and becoming the person you hope to be. A lot of time, we fall victim to distraction because we don’t harness and direct our energy in productive ways.

If we schedule our time, we can set aside moments for focus, as well as moments for fun. Nir emphasizes the importance of dedicating a separate block of time to play games or watch Netflix. If there’s forethought involved, kids can keep themselves from playing for hours. In addition, by being aware of when and how much they’ll play, teens keep themselves from getting distracted by thoughts of playing, Nir explains.

Nir talks about how another really important factor in focus is sleep! Technology often plays a part in keeping kids from getting all the rest they need at night. This can cause some serious physiological and mental health issues! Nir says it’s probably not a good idea for teens to have cellphones with them as they’re falling asleep, or to have TVs in their room–these things will keep them from peacefully slipping into their dreams. 

In the episode, Nir talks further about how teens and parents alike can approach distraction from a few different angles. In addition, he shares ways we can actually use technology to help us manage our time and maintain our focus.

In the Episode…

Nir’s innovative and unconventional perspective on defeating distraction makes for a riveting interview! On top of the topics above, we discuss:

  • How our addictive behavior is more psychological than biological
  • Why it can sometimes be good to let kids fail tests
  • What studies say about screen time
  • Why it can be powerful to eat meals together as a family

While technology might seem like a serious threat to our focus, there are ways we can beat distraction and come out on top. It was so enlightening to talk to Nir this week–I hope you have as much fun listening as I did! If you like this episode, subscribe and share!

Parenting Scripts

Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen

1. Motivate your teen to get their attention under control:

“There will be a bifurcation between two kinds of people. There will be the kind of people who allow their time and attention to be controlled and manipulated by others. And there will be the kind of people who stand up and say, ‘No. I decide how I spend my time, I decide how I control my attention and I will decide how I will spend my life.’”

-Nir Eyal

2. Let your teen know their distracted behavior comes from a deeper place: (1 of 2) 

(Members Only)

3. Let your teen know their distracted behavior comes from a deeper place: (2 of 2) 

(Members Only)

4. Ask your teen how they will put limits on their time:

(Members Only)

Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: Indistractable is about kind of almost the opposite of your last book. Your last book was how to create products that hook users and get us stuck in this cycle of using the products more and more often. This book is almost about how to overcome that as people and not get sucked in by products, especially digital products. What caused you to think that this was the important topic? It says in the book that you spent five years writing it. Obviously a lot of work and effort went into it. Why was that?

Nir: Yeah. Well, I really think that becoming indistractable is the skill of the century, that there will be a bifurcation between two kinds of the people. There will be the kind of people who allowed their time and attention to be controlled and manipulated by others and there will be the kind of people who stand up and say, “No, I decide how I spend my time. I decide how I control my attention and I will decide how I spend my life.” There is no more important skill to teach our children than this macro skill of becoming indistractible, because if they don’t know this skill, they unfortunately will be in that group of people who are manipulated constantly by outside forces. This is not necessarily a new thing. I mean, there have been all kinds of entities that want to persuade and manipulate you to do one thing or another, whether that’s commercial interests or ideological interests.

Nir: But I think what’s changed now is that their ability to reach into your mind through the devices in your pocket has obviously increased. That devices today are more pervasive and more persuasive than ever before. But the challenge of course is, is that we don’t want to raise a generation of Luddites. I love technology, and I want my daughter to love technology, because she needs these tools. I mean, we don’t want to raise a generation of kids who are scared of technology. Their future jobs need them to be conversing with these tools. What I really wanted to understand selfishly, was how can I become indistractable? I really felt like that was a skill I wanted. Let me back up a second. I’ll tell you about the Genesis of why I decided to write this book.

Nir: I spent many years teaching at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and I wrote a book about six years ago called, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. This book really explored the deeper psychology behind how products like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Slack, WhatsApp, Snapchat, how these products are designed to get you hooked. The idea was that I wanted to steal their secrets so that product makers could use these techniques for good, right? I wanted to expose these techniques so that everybody out there building a product or service can design those products to build healthy habits in users’ lives. That’s exactly what’s happened in the education, healthcare, e-commerce space, all sorts of companies over the past six years have used my first book to build healthy habits in users’ lives. That’s been great. There’s companies, various education companies like Kahoot is a company that used the hook model. They recently went public, it’s the most widely used educational software company in the world right now. They use many of these techniques for good.

Nir: Duolingo is another company that uses the hook model again to teach people languages. So we absolutely can use these techniques for good, but of course there’s a flip side. The flip side is that when products are designed to be so engaging, so habit forming, sometimes they can actually be distracting. That’s what I found kind of happened to me at one point. I remember about five years ago, I was sitting with my daughter and we had a beautiful afternoon planned and just some quality daddy-daughter time together. I remember that we had this book of activities that dads and daughters could do together. One of the activities in the book was to ask each other this question. The question was, if you could have any superpower, what superpower would you want? I remember that question verbatim, but I can’t tell you what my daughter said, because in that moment, for whatever reason, I don’t really know why, I started looking at my phone as opposed to paying attention to my daughter.

Nir: She got the message that I was clearly sending, which was that whatever was on my phone was more important than she was. She went to go play with some toy outside. By the time I looked up from my phone, I realized that I’d blown this perfect daddy-daughter moment. If I’m really honest with you, it didn’t just happen with my daughter. It would happen when I was in the office and I would say I was going to work on a big project. I was going to finish this proposal. I was going to finish this or that. Yet, somehow 20, 30, 40 minutes later, I was doing everything but the thing I said I was going to do. It would happen when I would tell myself for the hundredth time I was going to start exercising or the millionth time that I’m finally going to start eating right and I wouldn’t do it. Not because I didn’t know what to do. I mean, don’t we all basically already know what to do? We don’t need to buy diet books to tell us to eat right and exercise. We already know that.

Nir: We don’t need to buy parental advice books to tell us that if we’re going to be with our kids, we need to be fully present. Who doesn’t know that? Who doesn’t know that if you want to be better at your job, you have to do the work, especially the hard stuff that other people don’t want to do. We don’t need advice anymore. We know what to do. What we don’t know how to do, is how do we stop getting in our own way? How do we stop distracting ourselves from what we know good and well needs to get done? That is, I think, the skill of the century. I thought to myself, boy, if I could have any super power, I just want this. I just want the power to do whatever it is I say I am going to do. It’s the power to follow through. It’s the power to stop lying to myself, right?

Nir: You don’t want to lie to other people, right? If I called you a liar, that’d be a terrible put down. I would never want anyone to call me a liar, because we don’t want to lack integrity when it comes to our relationships. So tell me, why do we lie to ourselves every day? We say we’ll do one thing. We know we should do it and yet we don’t do it, right? We yell at our kids for not doing what they need to do and yet we’re fricking hypocrites, because we don’t do what we say we’re going to do every day. That’s the power I wanted. I wanted the super power of being indistractible.

Nir: So I spent the past five years writing this book to dispel a whole lot of myths. I mean, you read the book and I’m very appreciative that you did, and you’ll have noted that it’s full of overturning apple carts. From why to-do lists are a bad idea, to why most people don’t know how to keep a schedule and a calendar, to why you don’t run out of willpower. All kinds of myths out there that are really hurting people. To the myths, probably the biggest one, that technology is addicting you. That it’s high-jacking your brain. Rubbish, silly, not scientific in the least. What I really wanted to do was to give people an inside look into the deeper psychology behind why we do things against our better interest so that we can finally regain our attention to control and choose our life.

Andy: Also, in that last thing you mentioned was one of the big kind of themes that runs through the book that I found really interesting, is why do we get distracted? I think it’s easy to blame it on, well, because there’s all these notifications coming in, because all of these networks that I’m on. I have so many emails in my inbox. Everything is pinging me all the time. I’m pulled in a million different directions, but you point out that a distraction is actually deeper and the root cause is not really any of those notifications that are coming in or the software that we’re using, but something beyond that. What is that?

Nir: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. What you’re describing is what we call external triggers. External triggers definitely play a role. External triggers, these are the pings, the dings, the rings, all of these things in our outside environment that can lead us towards distraction. That is a potential source of distraction, but it’s not the leading cause of distraction. The leading cause of distraction has nothing to do with what’s going on outside of us, but rather what is happening inside of us, these are called internal triggers. Internal triggers are uncomfortable emotional states that we seek to escape from. Loneliness, boredom, fatigue, uncertainty, stress, anxiety, these uncomfortable sensations that we want to escape. The icky sticky truth that we don’t want to talk about, is that I don’t care if you get rid of Facebook, you’re still going to get distracted.

Nir: I don’t care if you get rid of your cell phone, you’re still going to get distracted. I don’t care if you throw away your television set, the X-Box, the radio, name a technology, I don’t care, you are still going to get distracted unless you deal with the internal triggers. I’m not just talking about you. I’m talking about your kids. If you want to know why we get distracted, why do we procrastinate? Why do we do things against our better interest? I hate to tell you this folks, it’s not as easy as saying, “Throw away the technology,” and I’m right, because people have been doing this for thousands of years. Plato talked about this 2,500 years ago. The Greek philosopher talked about how back 2,500 years ago, how distracted people are. So it can’t be the technology. It can’t be Facebook. It can’t be the video games.

Nir: People have been struggling with this for 2,500 years. It’s not the technology. It’s our inability to deal with discomfort, whether it’s too much news, too much food, too much booze, too much football, too much Facebook, it is always about a desire to escape discomfort. If we don’t deal with this fact, with this reality that time management requires pain management. Let me say that again, super important. Time management requires pain management, because when we procrastinate, it’s not a character flaw. There’s nothing wrong with you or your kids. We simply haven’t learned the proper techniques to deal with the emotional discomfort in a way that serves us as opposed to us serving the emotion.

Andy: So it kind of kind of shoots down, basically, most of the strategies that parents tend to turn to in order to help their teens regulate technology, which is like, “I’m going to turn off the wifi at a certain point. I’m going to put parental controls on your phone. We’re going to have to set up rules. I’ll take your phone away and we’ll put it in a charging station at night.” All of these things that people are talking about and parents are talking about, as I’ve tried everything, I’ve tried this, I’ve tried that, I’ve tried that. Well, there’s a reason you’ve had all those things and they haven’t worked, because they’re not addressing the underlying problem. Actually you point out on page 48 that studies show that people who believe they’re powerless to fight their cravings are actually more likely to succumb to them.

Andy: I think all of these strategies that parents are trying to use are communicating the message to teens that, “Oh, you’re just powerless to avoid distraction in this world of technology. So I have to get rid of these devices for you and put these things in place to clear the way and get these away from you, because you just wouldn’t be able to control yourself otherwise.” We’re actually kind of, without trying to I think, we’re sending the message to them that these things are addicting and you don’t have control over your impulses. We’re kind of creating that effect in like a little bit of a reverse feedback loop.

Nir: Yeah. Look, there is a place for removing those external triggers. There’s four big parts to becoming indistractible. The first step, the most important step is mastering the internal triggers. That’s the most important step. We can spend some time talking about, “Well, what is my kids internal triggers? What are they exactly escaping?” It’s really, really important to understand this.

Nir: The next step is to make time for traction. This is a really important thing to discuss real quick, because I didn’t understand what this term even meant, right? What is distraction? Many people think that the opposite of distraction, what they want, what they seek, is focus, but the opposite of distraction is not focus. If you look at the origin of the word, the opposite of distraction is traction. That both traction and distraction come from the same Latin root, [Latin 00:12:35], which means to pull. You’ll also notice that both words end in the same six letters, A-C-T-I-O-N, that spells action. So traction by definition is any action that pulls you towards what you plan to do, things that you do with intent, things that move you closer to your values and help you become the kind of person you want to become. So those are acts of traction.

Nir: The opposite of traction is of course, distraction. Distraction is any action that pulls you further away from your goals. Further away from the things that you do with intent. Further away from your values and becoming the person you want to become. So this is a really important distinction. We have to understand this, because I would argue any action can be traction or distraction based on forethought, based on forethought. There is nothing wrong with your kid playing video games, as long as it’s age appropriate, okay? There’s nothing wrong with your kid going on social media. There’s nothing wrong with your kid watching a movie. Again, as long as it’s age appropriate, as long as that time is planned for, okay? That part of the problem is that people don’t understand this principle around time management, both with adults and I think in terms of teaching their kids, that you cannot call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from. Let me say that again. You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it’s distracting you from.

Nir: I talk to so many parents who say, “Oh, I’m so distracted these days. I can’t get anything done because my kids wanted this and my boss wanted that. You see what happened on social media.” When I say, “Okay, but what did you plan to do with your time? Show me your schedule.” They take out their schedule and guess what? It’s blank. 90% of the time there’s nothing in their calendar. They use a to do list, which we can talk about in a minute about why to-do lists are horrible for your personal productivity. But when it comes to wait a minute, what did I want to do with my time? No idea.

Nir: There’s a reason we use the same words that we use to describe money we use to describe our time and attention, right? We pay attention. We spend time. It’s just like we spend time, we pay with money. We use these terms because they’re very similar, right? We have limited supplies and time in fact, if you think about it, we have a much more limited supply. Everybody on earth has the same 24 hours. You can always go make more money. You can’t make more time. Yet, somehow our time we just give it to whoever wants it. It’s like passing out dollar bills on a street corner. Here, take as much of it as you want. We have to teach our kids and ourselves how to plan that time. So if your kid wants to spend time playing video games, that’s great, but let’s plan time for it.

Nir: Okay, here it is on the schedule. This solves a lot of problems, because then it stops the rumination cycle that so many teens face of, when can I play? When can I play? When can I play? That rumination is actually a big part of the problem. It’s actually shown to be the root of the addictive seeming tendencies. It’s not the video game, it’s that they don’t know when they can play the video games. So they keep ruminating on it like a smoker, thinking about their next cigarette, as opposed to saying, “Okay, it’s coming up seven o’clock, that’s when I get to play for an hour and a half. Okay. No problem. It’s coming. I can relax.” It’s about making time for traction, that’s step two.

Nir: Step three is about hacking back external triggers. So back to what you were saying, some of the solution is in fact removing these devices, at least from certain contexts. For example, I don’t know why a teenager needs to sleep with their cell phone. I don’t know why a teenager needs to have a television in their bedroom. Can somebody give me a good reason why a teenager needs a television in their bedroom? This is what we do. We forget when it comes to the blame game around social media and technology. It’s not so much the technology people. It’s what the technology is displacing.

Nir: What it is displacing is sleep. We know, study after study shows us that sleep is absolutely necessary for proper physiological and psychological wellbeing. A lack of sleep will drive you crazy. It literally leads to mental illness and depression. It’s not the social media. It’s not the technology. It’s the fact that these kids aren’t getting enough sleep and I’ll prove it to you. We just had a worldwide experiment on what happens when kids get more sleep. This is what happened during COVID that because kids weren’t going to school and waking up at these ungodly hours that we make our teenagers wake up, 6:00 AM to go to school and then they go to sleep at 2:00 AM, because they just finished their homework. What happened during corona when kids were homeschooling now, is that they got a lot more sleep and guess what, rates of mental illness have gone down. Have gone down, right?

Nir: Social media use hasn’t gone down. They’re using social media more than ever. But what we’re finding is that self-reported metrics of depression and anxiety are going down, because of two reasons. Kids are getting more sleep and they’re spending more time with their families. Hallelujah. Can we stop blaming the tech and focus now on the real problem? What my point is here, anything that interrupts sleep, anything that pings, dings, boops, or beeps in the kids’ bedroom, it’s got to go, okay? That’s not negotiable, but smashing your kid’s X-Box to prove a point, that’s not going to work. I promise you, they’re going to find another way.

Nir: Then finally, it’s about preventing distraction with pacts. This is where we can actually use technology to help teach kids to manage their use of technology. I’ll give you one quick example of a device that uses a pact. There’s a free app called Forest and my daughter loves it, she’s been using it for years. It’s a very simple app. Every time you open the app, you dial in how much time you want to do focused work for. Let’s say it’s 45 minutes, an hour, whatever. Let’s say kids doing homework. I use it when I’m doing my writing time and I want to just focus on that one thing. Whenever you dial in that amount of time, this cute little virtual tree is planted on your screen.

Nir: If you pick up the phone and do anything with it, then the cute little virtual tree dies, okay? So it’s enough of a reminder to show you, hey, that’s not what you want to do. You made a promise, don’t kill the virtual tree. Very simple, very effective. It’s a form of what we call pre-commitment. There’s hundreds of different examples of techniques you can use, but I just want to give you kind of a taste of the four big pillars of this strategy. Which is number one, we talked about mastering the internal triggers. Number two, make time for traction. Number three, hack back the external triggers and number four, prevent distraction with pacts. This is how we become indistractable and of course, how we teach our kids to become indistractable as well.

Andy: This system really is helpful for me in terms of just wrapping my head around how this all works and how you can approach getting rid of distraction in your own life. That’s something that I found really interesting in here. You mentioned that it’s similar to smokers that are having cravings for their next cigarette. You talk about a study in here about flight attendants, who were either on a three-hour flight or a 10 hour flight, and they monitor their cravings for cigarettes over the course of the flight and the patterns were totally different.

Nir: Yeah. Yeah. This goes back to, I think, a lot of myths that we have around addiction and it drives me up the wall frankly, when I hear this terminology being inappropriately used, that addiction for some reason in society, it’s acceptable to call everything addictive, right? My wife got a box of shoes from the company DSW and it had written on the side, careful addictive contents inside, or saw a bag of chips the other day that says, “Caution addictive.” We call everything addictive these days. This has gone to the extreme of us calling video games are addictive supposedly and social media is addictive, everything’s addictive. Listen, folks, an addiction is a pathology. It is a disease. We don’t talk about epilepsy or Tourette’s or obsessive compulsive disorder in the same way we talk about addiction.

Nir: Somehow everything is addictive and everyone gets addicted and it’s rubbish. It’s not true. Even the people that we think are addicted to some of the most “addictive substances” turns out aren’t really addicted. That when you look at nicotine, for example, we know that what drives the “addiction” is not so much the nicotine. It actually turns out nicotine will be metabolized through the body in about three hours. If a smoker doesn’t spoke for three hours, the metabolic symptoms of withdrawal are processed in about three hours, okay? So they do feel a little bit of a withdrawal apparently, and it’s nowhere near as big of a deal as people make it out to be those cravings, but you do feel a little bit of like a hunger. You do feel like a little bit of an emptiness when you go through those withdrawals. It lasts about three hours.

Nir: What really keeps people addicted is the psychological component of addiction. It’s the craving, the wanting, the desire that you can’t scratch that itch even when you want to. Part of the evidence comes to us from an amazing study that was done when they took two groups of flight attendants. These flight tents were all smokers, regular smokers. They asked these flight attendants to monitor their level of craving for cigarettes as they took these flights, which was part of their job. One group of flight attendants was on a three hour flight. The other group of flight attendants was on a eight hour flight. You would expect that if cravings occur for cigarettes based on the amount of time since your last smoke, that you would expect that to happen at the same time for both sets of flight attendants, right? So let’s say about three hours or so both of them would really be craving a cigarette, but that’s not what happened.

Nir: What happened was that both sets of flight attendants experience the highest level of craving, not at the same amount of time since their last smoke, but rather at the same amount of time before their next smoke. So as the passengers were getting off the plane and the flight attendants were saying, “Come on, get off the plane already. I want to smoke a cigarette.”

Andy: “Let’s go,” yeah.

Nir: That’s when they felt the highest cravings, right. When they were just about to get it, let me have it. In science I don’t know if anything proves, but this gives a lot of evidence for this concept that these so-called addictions are really more about psychological conditioning than they are some kind of physiological craving. How much of this can be changed based on our perception of our cravings and how we deal with those desires. Whether it’s cigarettes or Facebook or television, or you name it, it’s really about how we perceive that discomfort. That matters.

Andy: I think it’s interesting because like you mentioned it’s the same, the three hours was over. So the same physiological drive to consume more nicotine is occurring in both groups, but yet the ones who are on the longer flight are able to just ignore it, because they know, they’ve already told themselves, “No, can’t smoke now. I can spoke in five hours.” Their brain is set up to just, okay, not right now, later. I think, that is like going back to what you were talking about, scheduling time for traction and putting the time on the calendar to do things, I think creates that for you or for your kids. Not right now, but I got a half hour later on that I’ve got it scheduled to do that or whatever.

Nir: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. That it’s that same rumination cycle that we talked about a bit earlier of when kids feel like they are constantly being controlled and this might be a good time to talk about those internal triggers that we talked about earlier. What are our children’s internal triggers really, right? What exactly are they looking to escape from when it comes to the discomfort in their lives? If we don’t really understand that, then we’re missing the point, we’re missing the big picture and we will never really fix the problem. These behaviors, these actions that kids take when they overuse a technology or one distraction or another, they all originate from what we call the needs displacement hypothesis. The needs displacement hypothesis says that when we don’t have our needs fulfilled offline, we look for them online, that there’s something missing, okay? So what’s missing?

Nir: About 40 years ago, two researchers came up with what today we called self-determination theory and self-determination theory is the most widely accepted and studied theory of human flourishing and wellbeing that’s been established. Every psychologist on the face of the earth knows self-determination theory very, very well. These two researchers Dessi and Ryan determined that every human on the face of the earth needs three things for a psychological wellbeing. I like to call them psychological vitamins, okay? So just like we have macro-nutrients for the body, we have carbohydrates, fat and protein. Those are the three macronutrients.

Nir: These are our three psychological vitamins and they are competency, autonomy and relatedness. When we don’t have these three things in sufficient doses in our life, just like when we are deficient in vitamins, bad things happen, right? The same goes for our psychological wellbeing. When we don’t have these three psychological vitamins, bad things happen. So let’s talk about these. I think I can make a pretty good case for why the typical American teenager is severely deficient in these three psychological nutrients and why the solution to their deficiency is found with what they do online. Let’s dissect these…

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About Nir Eyal

Nir Eyal is the author of two bestselling books, Indistractable and Hooked. Indistractable received critical acclaim, winning the Outstanding Works of Literature (OWL) Award as well as being named one of the Best Business and Leadership Books of the Year by Amazon and one of the Best Personal Development Books of the Year by Audible. The Globe and Mail called Indistractable, “the best business book of 2019.”

Nir writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir’s writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, Time Magazine, The Atlantic, Fast Company, and Psychology Today.

 Since 2003 he has co-founded and sold two tech companies and was dubbed by The M.I.T. Technology Review as, “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology.” He previously taught as a Lecturer in Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford.

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