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Is Technology Ruining the Family Unit

No matter where you look these days, you see societal hints that we have become too connected. To our technology that is!

Just recently, there were articles featured in Newsweek of all places talking about distracted parenting – where moms and dads were more committed to their Blackberries than they were to their children. And sure, pretty much anywhere, you go – whether it is a beach resort, Water Park, McDonalds Playland, or even the park – you are bound to see the parent in charge glancing down at a digital device while keeping check on little Johnny and Susie hanging from the monkey bars.

Is this wrong? Does this mean that technology is ruining the family unit? Are parents today really so distracted that they aren’t taking into account the needs of the ‘actual’ people in their lives versus the ‘virtual?’ And honestly, is this something that should be featured in such reputable magazines as Newsweek?

Let’s be real, the whole point of all these gadgets and devices is to make life pray tell easier. Shouldn’t families be able to capitalize on this sense of ease as well?

For the stay at home parent who is very often isolated from the rest of the world and seemingly trapped in a Wow Wow Wubbzy nightmare, having an Iphone, laptop, or computer can be the perfect distraction to get away from it all. At least for a few minutes. And with all the applications and organizational tools available online today – it makes sense to utilize them. Plus, the edge of technology has enabled an estimated 1 million parents to work from home or telecommute. With a dwindling economy, those numbers are rising yearly. Having the luxury of being able to spend quality time with the kids, and remain connected to colleagues or be quickly alerted when that important email comes in are luxuries of our technological world.

However, many people say that we are ‘having our cake an eating it too.’ And many child development experts as well as a Stanford University study seem to think that children today are now competing with technology for mom and dads attention. See, it’s easy to feel good about spending time with the kids or being a stay at home parent – despite the fact that you spend 5 hours a day on Facebook. And its easy to walk around your home looking busy doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher and moving blocks around while balancing your I phone on your lap. While a young baby may not immediately notice that you are participating in what has become ‘distracted parenting,’ happily nodding, smiling and laughing as if on cue – older kids will. Perhaps this is why so many technological devices end up being flushed down the toilet by toddlers. (They would likely do the same thing to siblings given the opportunity!)

Two decades ago, it was normal for parents to sit down and have a meal together. This was called supper, or dinner – depending on where you are from. Today, it is a rare treat that families can sit around the table and enjoy a meal together. And for those that do, there are innumerous distractions brought about technology.

Plus, if you have a job these days, there is a good chance that you aren’t ever really OFF. Because technology keeps tabs on us and makes us infinitely available. Cellphones have put a rotten end to the happy days of ignoring the phone or simply taking it off the hook during dinner – or when you didn’t want to be interrupted. Computers offer us so much information, so much of it entertaining – that you can satisfy nearly every single human need facing a screen.

For many people, this way of life becomes an addiction. One that doesn’t feel like an addiction because there is nothing illegal about it. Plus, ‘everybody’ is doing it. If you are the only parent in your neighborhood who doesn’t accept text messages, you would be the only one left out of playdates. Few people communicate face to face or with the spoken word anymore. And even though this is supposed to save us time, the truth is it is very time consuming in and of itself.

Is technology ruining the family unit? It’s hard to say. Yet studies have been on young adults and teenagers, and it seems their social adeptness is suffering. Since they are constantly deciphering computerized messages from one another, they are losing sight of some key aspects of communication and conversation. Add the fact that parents and teens often communicate electronically to the mix and it only makes sense that you are going to have delusional bunch. Yet, it will be a few more years before we know for
sure.

The other obvious problem is that even though it feels like we are spending quality time together as family, we are all multi-tasking and distracted by the multitude of things going on in our virtual world at the same time. This translates into the fact that we aren’t clearly focusing on what is going on around us, or our children.

The key is balance! There is nothing wrong with mom and dad utilizing their time at the park to check emails and network with others. However, there should be a time each day when technology is put to rest, and your family is safe from competing against phone calls or texts, facebook and twitter. Turn off the computers, video games, and disengage in chat sessions and focus on one another. At first, you will likely find that it is difficult. You will be even more excited to check your email when the black out period is over. Yet this time is necessary. Human beings were designed to connect physically and mentally. The sound of a voice, information from friends and the loving connection of a family are things that our technology cannot give us (at least not yet).

And it’s absolutely fair to stick with the technology that works for you. Skype, and other sorts of connection are truly amazing features of this new world that we live in. If you work from home or have to handle business through technology when you are with your family, make sure that they understand what and why you are doing it. But you still have to set limits and boundaries. Not just for yourself, but for your family as well.

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