Note from Jen: This is a topic I know many moms struggle with (including myself) so I am thrilled to share this article by Dr. Lori Aleknavicius, Psy.D. on keeping families connected in a high tech world.
This is not a post to make you feel guilty about using your smart phone!! What mom needs more guilt?
She simply offers information on the importance of face-to-face interactions and fun ideas on how to keep your family connected in this high tech world.
I love her advice on setting smart phone boundaries, I hope you do too.
Keeping Families Connected in a
High Tech World
by Dr. Lori Aleknavicius, Psy.D.
The New Modern Family
As a first response, most people would define family as the stereotypical structure of two parents and their children living in the same home, with extended family being grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on.
However, looking at modern families there is clearly a new, and massively influential and powerful addition present in most people’s families – the smart phone.
Just have a look around, you’ll see.
Parents’ time, attention and focus are frequently consumed by their phones with texting, surfing and updating social media sites, taking pictures, checking calendars, searching for information online, using maps/finding directions, checking online grading systems for their children, organizing play dates, setting up appointments, playing games, staying abreast of sports scores, and so much more.
Children and teenagers are doing much of the same with their own smart phones, or their parents’ smart phones.
Everywhere you look you can see people on their smart phones – at restaurants, in the park, walking the dog, at sporting events, in the car, even in the bathroom! There is no escape, or so this new addition seems to want to make us think.
Just the other night, I saw a table of 5 family members (3 children and 2 parents) at a local eatery – none of them were talking to each other, or even looking at each other.
Instead, they were each staring at their own smart phone (or other similar gadget) while waiting for their food to arrive.
But, ask them what they did on Friday night and they would surely tell you that they went out to dinner as a family. Although they would not be telling a lie, their response also would not be the full truth.
A Disconnect Epidemic
This sort of un-interaction and focus on technology is slowly becoming the new norm within families, romantic relationships, and friendships in our society.
In my work as a Clinical Psychologist I am seeing a trend of extremely disconnected families. Parents are not connected to one another, or their children. Likewise, children are not connected to their families.
Instead of truly talking or relating to one another, we have transitioned to high levels of being in close physical proximity to our loved ones, but being more distant than ever.
The reality is the smart phone is here to stay. We all know that.
What this generation of parents has to navigate is finding a healthy way to co-exist with technology within the family without sacrificing essential interactions.
Setting Smart Phone Boundaries
My advice on this matter is to set boundaries and limits for smart phone usage (for yourself and your children), and challenge yourself and your family to go back to or try out new ways of relating/connecting.
Time spent together as a family is critical for child/adolescent development, maturation, and emotional and social well-being.
Finding ways to unplug from our smart phones and computers and connect/re-connect with our family members is a very big deal.
Ideas to Connect as a Family Technology-Free
Here is a beginners list of ideas to keeping families connected. Give these activities a try with no phones allowed (not even for pictures!):
1. Visit a family friend or relative that you haven’t seen in a while
2. Go to a community event together
3. Cook or bake together
4. Take a class together
5. Play a board game together
6. Play outside together
7. Take a sporting lesson together
8. Paint together
9. Garden together
10. Read books together
11. Listen to music together
12. Clean/organize together
13. Pick up a hobby together
14. Try something new together
15. Laugh together
Little Eyes – They’re Watching You
Modeling is one of, if not the, primary way our children learn.
As their parents, it is our responsibility to model appropriate boundary setting and positive behaviors.
It is also our job to show our kids that it is fun and exciting to do new things, that there are creative ways to stay engaged, with people and the things happening around you, and that a new and greater level of understanding about who our kids are/how they are maturing is something worth pursuing.
Many parents struggle with the act of doing much of what I outlined above.
They are living chronically overscheduled lives, are overtired with no opportunity to recover being made, and as a result living in a state of being chronically overwhelmed.
Take Back Control
You really do have control over it, maybe just a little, but it is there. (REALLY!) Finding new and improved paths for ourselves and our families is a path that generally leads to family togetherness, positive self esteem, overall greater happiness, adjustment, and well-being.
We can turn this around and make a difference in our own lives and the lives of our children by simply coming up with a plan, setting our minds to it, and following the plan.
Remember – smart phones, computers and technology do not rule us or our families unless we relinquish our power and allow this new family member into the prominent position of every aspect of our lives.
Envision the life you want for yourself and your family, come up with a plan of action, and put your heart and soul into making it happen, because they are what matters.
Dr. Lori Aleknavicius, Psy.D. of Inner Fokus is a Clinical Psychologist in Newport Beach, fellow mommy of three young children.