I remember a time earlier in my life where I lived in a small little bungalow. We all shared a small living room and kitchen. Our home was approximately 900 sq feet. We did not have cell phones, texting or other distractions. Our life at home was spent in close proximity. Human connection was built into the fibre of our culture and society by the mere fact that technology and the consumerism founded in the belief that “bigger is better” had not evolved yet.
Today, many people have more floor space than ever. Homes continue to become bigger and bigger and bigger. Technology has created a new generation of disconnected youth and their only means to engagement is through wifi and networks. The role of raising children has created a new confusion for ‘parenting’ where parents are at a loss of how to engage their children because of technology. Today, the new parent must become a ‘Digital Parent’ who needs to become an expert in the online world. There is no way of knowing what your children are actually doing or engaging in without becoming a ‘Digital Parent’.
Connecting today means Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Texting, video streaming, FaceTime, Messenger, and the list goes on and on.
I recently went to Nicaragua, in a small little town called Masachapa. It was 7pm at night as I sat at an outdoor table and watched the street be full of children running around, playing soccer, and other games, while parents, families and neighbours sat in front of people’s homes, connecting, laughing, and enjoying each others company. It then occurred to me, this was what life was like before technology. This little town had no technology nor wifi. Although this community was very poor, there was a real sense of happiness and connection. Their homes were so small, and everyone engaged as family. They ate together, sat together, and laughed together.
How do you know when you need to disconnect from technology to connect with others:
Technology does move us farther away from being present. Attention, focus, impulse, mood disorders and dysregulation are all connected to screens. According to Victoria Buckley MD she states “Screen-related effects can present in many shapes and forms. Although varied, many of the effects can be grouped into symptoms related to mood, cognition, and behavior. The root of these symptoms appears to be linked to repeated stress on the nervous system, making self-regulation and stress management less efficient. Because of the complicated and varied nature of screens’ effects, I’ve found it helpful to conceptualize the phenomena in terms of a syndrome—what I call Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS). ESS can occur in the absence of a psychiatric disorder and mimic it, or it can occur in the face of an underlying disorder, exacerbating it.”
The movie, which is worth watching called “Disconnect” is all about the power of human communication and interaction, and how anti-social as a society we are becoming.
More floor space and technology is leading our society to become more isolated and withdrawn. The full effects of these societal changes are still not fully understood, but we are learning the adverse effect that these conditions have on children, youth and families.
Set clear boundaries on your technology and build intention family time with the following suggestions:
put limits on your use of gadgets
at home, put your gadgets away in a designated spot to support family connection
become more self aware of your usage
promote family meals together
have technology free evenings
encourage technology free activities and outings as a family
notice when you are slipping backwards
establish a defined structure for your family regarding intention connection and technology boundaries