W.A.I.T. a Minute


Tristan Gorrindo, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, on getting teenagers to pause online.Illustration by Gavin Potenza 

How many friends do you have on Facebook? For teenagers who use the social media site, the median count is about 300, according to Teens, Social Media, and Privacy, a Pew Center report released last spring.

That’s a lot of rapid-fire, non-face-toface communicating. Add in an adolescent’s proclivity for impulsivity, and you can land in the world of sexting and cyber-bullying pretty fast.

“Adolescents are biologically more prone to making decisions that are not well thought out,” says Tristan Gorrindo, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The part of the brain right behind the forehead, which controls judgment, is at that time undergoing a rapid period of development,” says Gorrindo, who is studying the way families use technology. In the process, he has created a practice called W.A.I.T. It’s designed with teenagers in mind, but for anyone living in today’s digital world, these questions could prove valuable:

W = Wide Audience
“Would I say this in front of a school assembly?”

A = Affect
“Am I in a good emotional place right now?”

I = Intent
“Might my intent be misunderstood?”

T = Today
“Today, tomorrow, or the next day? Can this wait a day?”

Evaluating the urgency of what we’re about to say can provide a helpful injection of perspective. Why is it so urgent? What will happen if I wait? And if I wait, might I feel differently about it later?

© 2012 Foundation for a Mindful Society