Nearly every person in North America has a social media account, and most of us have several. Statistics show that there is a rise in social media usage every year, so if it seems as though everyone in your family is glued to their phones all the time, it’s because they are.
Studies have shown that on average, we touch or pick up our phones upwards of 2,617 times per day! It’s no wonder that fewer families are spending time together as the decades tick by, and the culprit, most parents agree, is technology and the internet – specifically social media. Excessive use of technology has a significant effect on family dynamics, and can negatively impact your relationships in a very real way.
Our device usage is increasing, too. Nearly half of the parents studied agreed that they have a sit-down dinner much less frequently now than when they were growing up. Social media is still a relatively new form of communication in our extensive history; it really wasn’t that long ago that most of our interactions were in person. Was it really so different before this new age of technology, or are we all looking back with rose coloured glasses?
The Good Ol’ Days
Let’s flashback to a typical evening in the mid 1980s with the average North American family: a game or two of Kick the Can outside with the other neighborhood kids, followed by a sit-down family dinner, maybe an episode of Cheers on a boxy 13 inch TV, and if you were lucky, a little Duck Hunt on your brand new Nintendo before bedtime.
Fast Forward about 30 years, and the picture looks a little different: while many families do still manage the sit-down dinner together, it’s often interrupted by technology usage. Good old-fashioned communication with your loved ones is harder to achieve in this technology-ridden world, and the increasing lack of face-to-face contact is not only frustrating, it could be detrimental to everyone’s mental and physical health.
Social Media: How it Affects the Nuclear Family
It’s no secret that technology has changed the way we communicate, especially considering that the average Facebook user today has about 200 or more “friends.” With the ease and convenience that social media provides, we can socialize without even leaving the house – or the couch, for that matter. While social media is a great way to stay in touch with people who don’t live near you, it can in turn greatly diminish your connection with people in your own home.
According to Dr. Jim Taylor Pd.D, a Psychology professor at the University of San Francisco and author, this lack of communication with your children in particular can have some serious side-effects.
“Children will feel less familiarity, comfort, trust, security, and, most importantly, love from their parents,” Dr. Taylor warns. As children are less likely to share information with their parents these days, Dr. Taylor stresses that “parents are also less able to not only offer appropriate supervision and guidance, but, at a more basic level, they are less able to model healthy behavior, share positive values, and send good messages to their children.”
It’s Not Just the Kids
Parents are just as guilty as their children when it comes to being attached to their smartphones, and excessive device usage at home can have a negative effect on marriages as well.
To be fair, smartphones do provide an easier way to connect with your partner while one or both are at work, and little texts and messages can help you feel close to your spouse, but the negative encounters and excessive device usage in a marriage can cause couples to feel insecure, uninteresting, and even distrust.
Since social media addiction and excessive technology use is negatively affecting our relationships, we need to change, and the change starts in your own home.
How to Fight Excessive Social Media and Technology Usage
Psychologists suggest that to counter the negative effects that social media and technology has in the home, families should unplug at least one night a week. Have a place set aside for everyone’s devices to be kept, turned off and out of sight, for the duration of your unplugged evening, and enjoy each other’s company.
How to keep older kids engaged? Try a family board game night. While you were busy staring at your phone, you probably didn’t notice that board games have come a long way over the years, and there are many family-friendly options. It’s not just Monopoly anymore!
However you unplug, it’s important to keep at it. Studies show that powering down not only benefits your relationships, it’s good for your own mental health. As technology continues to advance, finding time for actual human contact will only get harder, so making a habit of unplugging now will set you and your family on the right path for a healthier future.
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