Adults Online

by | Oct 13, 2021

For the last few weeks I have been attempting to highlight concerns regarding teens and the excessive use of technology. Articles in the Wall Street Journal have pointed to Facebook and Instagram negatively impacting the mental health of young learners. In addition, therapists, researchers, teachers and parents have all expressed their concern about the impact technology is having on kids.

While all of the above might require serious consideration, let us not forget how adults also interact with their devices. In fact, adult behavior can often be more troublesome than that of our youth. Just look at the vitriol being spewed online about politics, race and who likes who. At any given time adults have been prone to cyber bullying politicians, school ommittee members, kids, those with dissenting views, etc., etc. As we express a desire to curtail adolescent use of technology, maybe adult behavior should have its limits as well. In fact, I would like to propose a law that requires any adult, over the age of 40, to be supervised by a teen while using their technological devices. 

By advocating for teens supervising adults over 40 years of age, perhaps we could eliminate jingoistic tweets, adult cyber bullying and over-the-top group think. In addition, such legislation might bring back more face-to-face conversations, enhanced civility, socialization and downtime. Have we forgotten that tools misused might prove dangerous? Adults and kids need to find ways to best utilize technology. 

As I have often stated, technological devices are wonderful tools. They can give us information quickly. They can connect us to far off places as well. Unfortunately, sometimes, they take us away from civility and community. So, my advice is simple – we should spend more time seeking to understand each other rather than constantly bashing away in an angry fashion. Smiles, kind words, engaging conversations and a nice walk with someone all sound so simple.

My poem, The Rabbit Hole, seeks to detail how innocuous things can become bigger than they are. How we treat each other online, decipher information, and engage in civil discourse, are important parts of a community. Negative comments, like that little bunny, can provide lots of trouble. 

The Rabbit Hole

Down in the Rabbit Hole
We chased that little bunny
Our duty wasn’t really hard
So lopsided it seemed funny
How could such a tiny foe
Cause us any harm
It would all be over soon
No need to sound alarm

Although bigger than our enemy
We just didn’t fit
The battle now was on such turf
Strange and dimly lit
And as we dug down deeper
The goal seemed difficult fare
Going in like Samson
But soon losing all our hare

How could such an enemy
Beat this imposing force
Perhaps we should keep fighting
For shame of feeling loss
A farmer told us long ago
Before things began to roll
Be careful of one’s mission
When entering a Rabbit Hole

See you soon.


Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program, a mental health counselor, and poet.

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October 15, 2021 7:01 am

I love this! I myself have stopped going on Facebook to avoid the nasty behavior I’ve seen from adults here in town. It’s so sad, because we live in an incredible place. I absolutely love our community, from Main Street to the farmer’s market at Goddard to seeing familiar faces at school events, etc. Then I go on Facebook and I see how truly awful people can be and it changes how I feel about living here. I hope some people read this and take your advice. Just be nice to each other. Arguing online has NEVER changed an opinion or resolved a dispute. Those things only happen during respectful face to face encounters. Thank you for saying what needs to be said!

Gayle berry
Gayle berry
October 15, 2021 7:18 am

Well said, Bob! People’s actions and words are causing such damage to our society and our country. These people hide behind the many layered masks of technology. They have become evil viruses disguised by social media.


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