A Delicate Balance: Tech Time & Family TimePosted by: Amy Hamilton on March 23rd, 2012
I am well aware of the irony of writing an article discussing families and the over use of technology; as I sit here on my laptop, checking my text messages on my iPhone, while one of my girls is on her laptop and the other listens to music on her iTouch. We are a family of Apple junkies. But, then I think, whom better to write this article, than someone who understands first hand the dilemma that most American families face. How do we raise our children in a time of technology?
As a therapist and a mother of two tween girls, I have heard first hand the effects of too much technology. Both parents and children talk about feelings of disconnection, isolation, and frustration. I have felt it in my own family.
Research shows that American children spend approximately 10 hrs a day on some sort of technology if you take in account “multi-tasking,” which our kids do so well these day. About half of teens text 50 message a day and one third text over 100 messages. And kids aren’t the only ones. According to another study, mothers are on the Internet three hours a day, and this is what they admit to.
Technology can be great. It connects us to people we love near or far and it gives us a world of information at our fingertips. Thank goodness for Google at homework time in our house. It can also be used to fight boredom and stop the kids from arguing, providing parents much needed peace and quiet. I can’t even imagine a family road trip without it. However, is it possible that we could benefit from limiting our family technology use?
1. Mom, I’m bored. Good!!! - In the last decade, parents have started feeling responsible for their children’s boredom; we feel like our children should be entertained at every moment during the day, so we supply them with technology. I don’t remember my mother feeling like she had to entertain me. My pleas of, “I’m bored” would be met with, “You have a room full of toys and a shelf full of books, figure something out!” I believe that when children get bored enough, they may start creating, inventing or picking up a good book. Better yet, they may write one.
2. Yes, the kids are fighting, but at least they are interacting - Sibling relationships are often your first peer relationship. Kids learn to share, play, argue, resolve conflict and forgive while playing with their sibling. Technology is most often played individually, so it does in fact stop the kids from fighting, but it also stops them from interacting.
3. You talk, and I will listen. Really I will! – The most recent research shows that the brain is relational; we think better and feel better when we are in connection with others. The best way to create connection with our children is through mindful listening. When we listen mindfully we are present, aware of our own thoughts and feeling, and listening to our children’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. I find in my personal and professional life, interacting with others mindfully can help others feel valued and appreciated; it can build trust and safety in the relationship; and create an authentic connection. Yes, we all have to put down our cell phones and gaming devices to do this. And no, we can’t be expected to do this every time our children talk.
I believe there is no right or wrong way to do technology; each family has to find what works for them. My hope for my own family is to find a balance so my kids experience life outside of technology, even if that means they are bored or fighting, while also enjoying the many benefits technology has to offer.
Tell me what you think. Do you find that technology is taking over in your family? Or have you found a balance? Tells us about it.
Next time we’ll explore practical ways to limit technology, without causing an uprising (well, maybe just a little one).