A motivational speaker is urging Iowa teachers, administrators and students to separate from their smart phones and connect with the humans around them. Joe Beckman, a consultant based in Minneapolis, was at the School Administrators of Iowa conference in August and he spent a couple of days in Spencer schools last week.

“How do we say yes to the benefits of tech, but not lose the one thing that got us here in the first place, which is human connection?…We know tech’s not going anywhere anytime soon,” Beckman says. “It’s not the bad guy in the room. If we use it in a way that makes our world and our lives better, if we use it as a tool rather than a companion.”

Beckman says smart phones have become a crutch.

“We are trying to fill different voids in our lives that real human connections were able to fill in the past,” Beckman says. “Real lonelineeds, feeling that you are part of something that is bigger than just you, contribution towards something or someone that makes them better — all of that takes real interaction, connection, being with people. And that’s hard to do and it’s impossible to replace if we do it from a virtual side of things.”

Beckman is the author of a book titled “Just Look Up” that he describes as a how-to book about engaging with those around you.

“Our brains are really good at finding things that are easy. It’s how our biology is. We want to do the least amount of work and get the biggest benefit and human connection is hard. It’s a lot easier to look down than it is to look up because looking up is fraught with rejection and fear and, ‘What do they think of me?’ and yet at the same time what we know as adults is that sometimes the hardest things and the right things are the same thing and I believe human connection is the right thing.”

Beckman was a featured speaker at training sessions hosted earlier this year by the Grant Wood and Prairie Lakes Area Education Agencies.

A recent Pew Research Center poll found 45 percent of teenagers are almost constantly on the internet and more than half felt anxious or lonely if they didn’t have access to their smart phone. Researchers from Iowa State University and other institutions who reviewed national data from 2009 through 2015 found an abrupt change in the sleeping habits of teenagers who used their smart phones at least two hours a day. Those with higher usage rates were far more likely to be depressed.

(By Corey Harguth, KICD, Spencer)

Radio Iowa