The Connected Family

9 01 2014

2014 is the first year in American history in which everybody has a mobile device. We are at the saturation point with smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs. They are in our pockets, purses, cars, backpacks, and bedrooms. We all have screens with us throughout our days, and some of us are never without a screen.

Now we are considering how to live well with the screens. Most of us are not yet comfortable with where and when and how to use our devices in a healthy way.

Digital family

Today, I received an email from AT&T about how to become better connected. This is their vision of the ideal family connection.

At first glance, it looks great. Happy parents. Kids sitting content nearby. Well dressed. Clean home. No worries.

But on further review, how ideal is this?

Is this family “better connected” as the ad proclaims?

What exactly are they connected to?

Do you feel the tension here between the technology and relationship?

I think we can do a lot better than connecting with screens and headphones. And we don’t need a multinational corporation like AT&T to help us become better connected. I suspect they will not lead us well.

We need more face-to-face time at the dinner table, not more of Apple’s FaceTime.

We need more little explorers walking in the woods, not more of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

And yet, it’s not best to eliminate all technology. Some if it is quite useful in connecting family members in meaningful ways; however, some of it is directly responsible for disconnecting families.

It’s best to attempt to achieve a balance in a healthy way. But in America, we are a long way from achieving that balance.

We still have not figured out how to make auto travel safe with mobile devices. Isn’t it amazing that after a decade of deaths by distracted drivers we still have not effectively outlawed texting while driving?

The healthy use of technology is way behind the curve of the adoption of technology. We have adopted tools, but we are not masters of them.

So it is with the American family and its digital devices. We are saturated with digital media, and yet we have not figured out how to integrate it into a healthy family life.

The answers may not come easily, but we need to ask ourselves:

1. How can we use technology to be more connected with our family?

2. What are some limits to technology that will help us avoid disconnection?

Here is an excerpt from my book Critical Connection which may help move the discussion along.

Model Good Behavior

Be sure to moderate your own use of media and to model a healthy, balanced relationship with modern devices. You must avoid your own addictions and continually remind your children that electronic addiction is not an option for anyone in your family, parents included. Parents should not spend their time on the sidelines of a soccer game with their faces in their phones.

Spend Your Time Wisely

Make sure to balance a moderate amount of screen time each week with copious amounts of people time, book time, and nature time. Send those kids outside to play. Take them to the library to borrow some books, magazines, and music. Set up game nights with the neighbors or a favorite family from church. Go shopping for a new bike. Go camping, fishing, hunting, or swimming. Just get the kids involved with people and physical activities so they are moving, playing, and being creative and active. It’s not enough to say no to screens. Say yes to the other things that make life an adventure.


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One response

10 01 2014
Mike Smith

Great article! The photo in the ad is disturbing. This family is communicating, but not with each other. I propose an App for parents that will disable their children s’ smart phones (except for emergencies) at certain times like dinner, after 9 pm, school hours, etc.

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