Do you remember Sunday dinners when you were a kid? Do you remember what it was like to sit as a family in the living room, watching a favorite television show together with your parents? What about car rides to grandma’s house or for your yearly vacation? Do you remember playing games along the way, asking your parents ‘How much longer” and “Are we there yet?” Boy, have things changed. Today, parents and kids are filling their ‘down time’ with distractions such as TV installed in the family car, video games, and other hand held devices. The truth is that it is rare today to see folks sitting around and enjoying one another face to face – without a technological device at least near.
And many families today do not know how to enact or enforce a technology time out – where everything that connects us socially and via the internet is turned off at a certain time. Sadly, families today are wasting a lot of time together – not really being together, but instead being distracted by all the tools of the handheld technological trade.
Whereas it used to be common place for parents to take the phone off the hook during dinner time, and turn the TV off – today, according to a Gallup poll – less than half of all families even share a meal together. And even when they sit around the family table to ‘break bread’ most still have a some sort of device in their hand – televisions are blaring and distractions are everywhere.
In North America, most kids over the age of 12 own a cell phone that doubles as a personal hand held computer. Teen culture is such that according the American Association of Pediatrics children are actually showing addictive tendencies toward their technological devices to the extent that they feel ‘extreme stress’ when they are not able to use their cell phones or tablets. And, in the US – while half of all school have some sort of policy in place to curb social technological activities during the school day – most still have lenient measures in place which give students time to use their cell phones for texting or Facebook during the school day.
Yes, the times are changing. The problem is that this new generation of families – and the new definition of family that comes along with it – is not doing much to connect us personally. It is ironic that technology is often seen as the gateway to connectivity – when for the average family, it is the antithesis of family bonding. After all, how well is a family bonding if all the members are sitting around ‘together’ at the table texting, typing, and interacting with people and the world that exists outside of their family?
A technology timeout is a good idea for many reasons. Essentially, parents who want to enforce a time out need to set a certain time of the day where all technology is turned off and put away. Certainly, your teens will not like the idea at first, and it will take some effort to get used to. However, the positive results on the family can be stunning. Say for instance you decide that at 7pm each and every day, all phones, and equipment are to be placed in a basket and turned off until the next day. The hours that follow are for family to interact with one another, to watch TV together, to actually have a meaningful conversation with one another. Without the beeps, whistles buzz and reminders of a computer or cell phone to let distract you – the family can actually learn to connect personally with one another.
Time spent unplugged so to speak, has been an important basis of research for people today in everything from the health vertical to the employment vertical. In all facets of research which show huge increases in the amount of time that people are spending plugged in – the negative effects have been widely reported and felt in every aspect of life – from education and employment and on relationships. We are living in an age where our connectivity serves as a distraction from life. Right now, while you are reading this article – there is likely something else or someone else that you could be spending your time on or with.
The key in all things in life is balance. Learning how to balance technology and quality time with other ‘real’ people is essential. Experts believe that if you feel nervous, or a heightened sense of anxiety when you are unable to be ‘plugged in’ then you are at risk for technology addiction. It is also important to remember that we are called human BEINGS for a reason. It is healthy for the body and the mind – as well as for the real relationships in our life to spend time just being. Just being together. Just being quiet. Just being silent in thought. Just being not distracted by our easy access to technology.
A technology time out can help keep you and your family in balance. It can also help to bring back the values of family time and help to induce conversation and closeness among family members. Consider balancing the time spent plugged in with nearly equal time being NOT plugged in – and slowly but surely you and your family will begin to truly connect in the important ways that are the foundation of family bonding.