The blue glow from the screen reflected on the boy’s face and shined right into our line of vision as we sat behind him. I kept looking at the mom, thinking that surely she would ask him to put his phone away. This is church, I thought to myself. Parents bring kids to church to give them exposure to the spiritual side of life. It gives them a break from technology to focus on something deeper. Throughout the service I found myself getting more and more annoyed. I couldn’t focus. The spinning characters on the app distracted both me and my children. That one tiny device sabotaged our efforts to do anything but stare at it.
Statistics show that we are not so different from that boy in church. We are also addicted to our devices. Most people go no more than 10 minutes before they have to check their phones. This is cross-cultural, and spans all age groups.
The one advantage I see for those of us who are parents is that we knew life without them. Our kids cannot say that. They are the first generation growing up with constant connectivity.
I love my smartphone. It’s helpful, makes my life run incredibly smoothly, takes great pictures and video, and it keeps my calendar and all useful information at my fingertips. There is a lot to like about that. I’ve become so accustomed to my hand-held office, that I can’t imagine life without it.
Yet, every rose has its thorn. As parents, most of us are all too aware of the thorns of technology. I see it everyday in my own home.
Because of the broad scope of this topic, I’m breaking it down into two parts: 1. The thorns of technology in families, and 2. What we can do about it (tomorrow’s post).
Today, let’s look at how technology specifically impacts families:
1. Devices place an invisible barrier between family members. No longer is it just you and your child in a room. It is you, your child, and her 600 Instagram friends. Because she may be much more interested in what they are doing than you, she chooses to engage in social media, rather than engage in conversation or interaction. This can cause frustration and emotional distance.
2. Electronic devices opportunity for inappropriate material to sneak through the back door. Unfiltered internet access and certain apps allow for access to images and videos that we would never allow in our homes. Statistics are firm that these images form damaging brain pathways that lead to unhealthy relationships, warped views of women, and addictive behaviors and lifestyles. Pornography is one of the leading threats to the mental health of our children. I cannot overstate this. If kids are exposed on a regular basis to pornography in adolescence, studies are showing it is more addictive than cocaine.
3. Physical, emotional, or spiritual growth may be neglected due to electronics. When children (or adults) spend a significant amount of time with their devices, physical activity, emotional connection, and spiritual development decreases. This, in turn, often leads to a sedentary lifestyle, little connection with others, and a shallow inner life – none of which are positive.
4. Electronics cause conflicts. Whether you are fighting over someone using their phone or computer too much, or arguing over what apps or games to purchase, media has become a main source of conflict in families. People often feel that electronic devices have invaded their homes negatively and this can bring up feelings of anger and resentment.
5. Media stunts human interaction and family bonds. If you look at a group of kids sitting in a circle, most likely 50-100% of them will be on their devices, choosing to engage the virtual world instead of each other. Just because this is a norm, it doesn’t make it right. This happens all too often in families, too. We allow ourselves, or our children, to be drawn into the virtual world when the beauty of family life lies right in plain view. For example, holidays, in years past, were celebrations spent circled around a table in lively conversation. Now, often people are snuggled up on the couch with their electronic device. These devices don’t create legacy, people do.
Technology isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it will only advance from where we are now.
As parents, we are having to navigate an area that is unprecedented. Our parents did not have these challenges when we were being raised. While it feels very discouraging to look at the negative affects of technology, we have to know where we are in order to create a plan for change.
Devices are not inherently bad. As with anything else, technology is deemed good or bad according to how we use it. Tomorrow we will take an empowered mindset as we look at ways families can combat the negative affects of technology in their homes.
What is your greatest challenge as you navigate technology in your home?
Day #9 Dare:
Assess how healthy your family is in regards to media.
In what area do you struggle the most?