A typical night in my household: the kids get picked up from school, homework is completed and dinner is eaten. After dinner, we all then flop on the couch in front of the TV. But we’re not really watching TV! We’re all sitting around either playing on our Smartphone or iPads – sussing out who’s doing what on Social Media or looking up information on the net.
It’s a far cry from the ‘olden’ days where a family had no option but to sit around listening to the wireless and discussing their day with each other. If you wanted to find out what someone was doing, you’d pick up the phone and chat. If you wanted information about the world, you’d pick up a book. But now Wikipedia is more commonly used than an Encyclopaedia!
And this is why I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love how easy it is to have any information I want at my fingertips, but I hate the fact that we are becoming ‘zombies’. Our kids no longer seem to go outside to play, or nag us to use the home phone (I know some people who no longer even have a home phone!). They are either pre-occupied with video games, or using their Smartphone or iPad to connect with those around them.
But where do our kids learn this behaviour?
- From their mates who are doing the same thing?
- From us – we are always ‘on’?
- The fact that life seems so ‘busy’ – we never have down time?
- That we don’t go outside to play a family game, go for a walk, or enjoy the sunshine?
Answer this question: “Where’s your phone right now?” Is it beside you, in your bag but you regularly check on it, or perhaps even in your hand?
A recent study on smartphone usage conducted by Deakin university found:
- 40 per cent of people surveyed felt lost without their phone;
- 34 per cent lost sleep due to the time spent on their phone; and
- 54 per cent found themselves occupied on their phone when they should be doing other things, and it caused problems.
Dr Sharon Horwood, lead researcher and psychology lecturer, said “We can think of problematic smartphone use as someone who has started to use their phone compulsively and where that compulsive use has started to impact on their daily functioning. That could be their productivity, social relationships, physical health, or emotional well-being,”
“There’s no doubt that smartphones have changed the way we do things, and given that around 88 per cent of Australian have smartphones, we must feel as though we get something good from using them.
“However, when usage becomes excessive it can result in a range of negative outcomes including low mood, reduced physical fitness, sleep deprivation, and poorer academic performance.
To try and balance out our ‘technological’ life, my husband and I have started to leave our phones at home and go out for a meal with our family. I found it amazing, when looking around, at how many people were on their phones and not talking to each other. It’s sad really but something we all seem to do these days.
We have also made a new rule in our house – that technology does not rule us!
This can be hard to manage some days as we are a blended family and we do need to communicate across two different households. But at the end of the day, when we are all sitting down together and talking, it’s well worth having the rule that no distractions are allowed!
I do have to admit (and please don’t tell the kids), that the amount of knowledge these kids have about technology is amazing. I’m only a Gen X, yet whenever I need to know how to do anything ‘techy’, my teenagers are on hand to show me. I guess it’s what they are growing up with so I may as well embrace the knowledge they can share.
So tonight when you get home, try saying to your family – NO TECHNOLOGY. Sure, you may meet some objections at first, but start out small (maybe 1 hour and work at building up from here), sit around your table after dinner and actually connect, interact and talk about your day.
We have started a new tradition during dinner, all technology is off and away and we have a focused conversation as a family. We go around the table and each talk about three things; the best part of our day, the thing that we are grateful for and something we did that was kind for another person. This is easily the best part of my day.
What do you do as a family to keep connected without the tech?
Be enthusiastic, optimistic and energetic everday.