Recently a friend shared a Facebook post that read: (Dad): “Son, I feel like you love the iPad more than you love me…” (4-year-old Son): “Oh Dad… I love you both the same.”
In a 2012 TED Talk, Sherry Turkle explained, “Those little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, but they change who we are. We are being together, while not being together. We are getting used to a new way of being alone together.” Mobile devices that promised to save time, increase connectedness and keep us safe may be doing just the opposite.
I spend every Tuesday providing prevention services at a local middle school, where increasingly, kids are struggling with anxiety, depression, body image issues, and other social problems that are all linked to their over-use of technology. Every week as I enter the building, I see hundreds of young people standing around in their respective social clusters waiting for the bell to ring. It is reminiscent of my own junior high days… with the exception of one thing: most of these young people have their heads bent with their thumbs moving at lightning speed, sending cybernetic communications to their virtual friends. They are practicing the art of “being alone together.” And even though they (and we) continue do to this, they also recognize that they would actually like more real interactions. One 14-year-old girl I work with told me the other day, “I wish my friends would at least show me a funny meme or video on their phone, instead of just sending it to me. That way we could at least laugh at it together.”
Many Parents say they would like to see their kids spend less time on their phones and more time with their family. However, oftentimes it’s us, the parents, who are modeling tech-attached behavior. I recently had a discussion with one of my middle-school classes about family bonding. I asked, “Do you have meaningful conversations with your parents?” Several students spoke up and said, “we can’t, because they are always on their phones.”
Dr. Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, points out that parents have used media as a means to take a break from their children for years. The difference is that mobile devices of today are with us 24/7 and can potentially interfere with relationships whenever or wherever we go. She emphasized that “Having device-free family time each day is crucial.”
If we want to have healthy families, it is critical that we create cell-phone free zones in our homes to make space for family bonding and building real relationships as opposed to virtual relationships. Being deliberate about spending quality, uninterrupted time as a family is an investment that will yield large dividends in the future.
Licensed Prevention Specialist, Southwest Behavioral Health Center
Teresa Willey Bio
Teresa Willie is a Licensed Prevention Specialist and has been with Southwest Behavioral Health Center for over 20 years. She is a graduate of Dixie State University with a degree in Individualize Studies, Health Psychology and Communications and a recipient of the Douglas Fetzer Bates legislative Advocacy Award, and the Merlin Goode Prevention Award. Teresa is passionate about prevention and loves her work but most of all, she treasures spending time with her family and believes that being a mom is the most important work in life.
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TED. (2012, April 03). Connected, but alone? | Sherry Turkle. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from