The New Family Divide: How Can Technology Impact Family Time?Jan 24, 2023
Updated by Sophia Ruan Gushée
Technology has been advancing at an unbelievable pace since the late 1990s—and even more so since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. Its impressive proliferation of engaging content, immediate connection to people almost anywhere in the world, and facilitation of unprecedented productivity offer invaluable benefits but important risks as well.
For parents, technology's most obvious impairment on family time is its enticing distraction of our attention and presence as well as its addictive traits. For these reasons, including their electromagnetic radiation, technology can be a toxic exposure if healthy technology habits are not established.
If you're reading this, then you're probably already trying to detox your house and detoxify your life to enjoy benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. However, perhaps even more important than learning how to detoxify your environment is nurturing the quality of your family time.
Our increased dependency on technology is accompanied by unique parenting challenges: meaningful communication and strong relationships with our children. It can challenge adult relationships as well. So, read on to explore whether your family time can be improved with healthy technology habits.
Why does a family divide happen?
Family divides can happen when there is a breakdown in communication and connection among parents and children, or between adults. A breakdown in communication might involve dishonest, disrespectful, and distant (not being present) conversations, or simply having no conversation at all.
It can create innocent misunderstandings, distrust, and loneliness among family members. When a breakdown in communication continues, the problem can snowball, furthering the distance among family members.
The difficulties in communication between working parents and their children
Working parents often have an obligation to work long hours—away from home, or even at home, resulting in “latchkey kids” that come home each day and spend time without their parents present or parents' presence. During that time, it’s common for children to play video games, visit social media sites, and use their cell phones to connect with friends.
Technology, like cell phones and online gaming, allows children to constantly connect with friends, making peers—and strangers—one of their largest influencers. In these cases, some children turn to friends or strangers for advice instead of their parents.
The difficulties for parents in mastering technology
Technology is changing at a rapid pace and in order to master the latest technology, parents must continuously spend time learning new devices, apps, social media sites, and even "languages" including what certain emojis mean (it's not always obvious). For most parents, it's impossible to keep abreast of how to keep children safe from the dangers that are associated with technology.
People's unparalleled accessibility also makes it difficult to balance family, work, household activities, and social calendars, let alone learn the latest, ever changing technology. Therefore, mastering technology often falls by the wayside.
In addition, many parents (and adults in general) today were raised in a culture where technology was not as large a part of everyday life as it is today. There were no Smart Boards in classrooms, cell phones were novelties, and online gaming had not yet been invented. Some homes didn’t even have a computer.
The learning curve for parents and adults to learn and master technology is much steeper than it is for children who have grown up with computers, tablets, smart TVs, and cell phones at their fingertips.
Now parents can't monitor their children's communication
In the beginning, social media sites could easily be monitored by parents. It was common for parents to “friend” their children and monitor their online communication.
Today, children are using social media platforms such as Snap Chat, where messages disappear within seconds so that parents can’t see the messages stored on their child’s phone.
Some children create separate profiles that their parents aren’t aware of: one where they connect to family and friends, and one where they only connect with friends. Other common methods children use to avoid parent monitoring are deleting text messages or apps from their phones daily.
What are the effects of technology on the family divide?
Technology has increasingly changed our culture and family dynamics. It is now integral for education, finances, social connections, digital music, video games, television, and in an increasing number of careers ranging from manufacturing to graphic design.
The rapid increase in technology is described well in a 2017 Washington Post article titled "What Tech World Did You Grow Up In?":
In the past three decades, the United States has seen staggering technological changes. In 1984, just 8 percent of households had a personal computer, the World Wide Web was still five years away, and cell phones were enormous. Americans born that year are only 33 years old.
Fast forward to 2019, the National Center For Education Statistics reported that 95% of 3- to 18-year-olds had home internet access, according to the American Community Survey (ACS).
Again, technology has brought incredible benefits. However, we should be aware of how it threatens our most potentially formative life experience: family time. The increased impact of technology on family time can cause family divides and have a long-lasting impact in the following ways:
- Decreased face-to-face communication. As children and parents become glued to various types of technology, it can result in decreased in-person communication and relationship-building among family members.
- Change in influencers. With friends and strangers being so accessible and children sharing less information with parents, children may turn to friends or strangers for advice instead of going to parents.
- Distanced communication. It’s easy to become distracted by text messages, emails, and social media updates. When conversations between family members are constantly interrupted by technology, it is difficult to “be in the moment.” This can lead children to share less information with parents as well.
- Feeling unimportant. Many families, parents and children alike, bring technology to the dinner table and family events. This habit can cause feelings of distance and unimportance among family members, convey that technology and online friends are more important than communicating with family members uninterrupted, and deprive children of potentially enriching conversations and meaningful connections.
- Lack of strong relationships. When parents and children don’t connect face-to-face uninterrupted and fully present, it can result in weakened relationships with families and others. Inevitably, this jeopardizes self-confidence too.
- Less comfort, trust, security, love. Weakened relationships may result in children feeling less comfort, trust, security, groundedness, and love from parents.
- Less opportunity to parent. Communication breakdowns could make it more difficult for parents to parent their children, offer advice, look out for their safety, supervise their activities and friends, and teach children good behaviors and values.
The meteoric advancement of technology has brought new challenges for parents, adults, children, and families. This increase in technology can divide family members, making it more difficult for parents to connect with their children. This wedge challenges parents' ability to have face-to-face communication, influence, and instill in their children feelings of importance, trust, security, genuine connection, and love. Similar effects may be seen in adult relationships as well.
Technology is a real threat to our most meaningful sources of happiness: quality connections with people but most especially our family. For simple tips to protect your family time from technology, check out: Tips to Protect Family Time from Technology
About Sophia Ruan Gushée
Sophia Ruan Gushée is a nontoxic lifestyle expert, author of the critically acclaimed books A to Z of D-Toxing and EMF Detox Workbook, creator of D-Tox Academy and 40-Day Home Detox, and host of the Practical Nontoxic Living podcast.
She has helped thousands of people eliminate harmful—often hidden—chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields from their homes and lifestyles. Based on more than 15 years of tracking the latest research, she believes that removing these toxins is the overlooked key to unlocking greater mindfulness, mental clarity, emotional harmony, and physical healing.
Sophia also works with companies and served on the prestigious Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and the exclusive Well+Good Council. She has appeared or been featured on the most popular health and wellness platforms including The Doctor Oz Show, Health, Family Circle, MindBodyGreen, and much more. You can learn more about Sophia by clicking here: Sophia Ruan Gushée.
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