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Alone Together- Competing with the Screen

Let’s face it- iPods, iPads, laptops, tablets, cell phones…kids these days are glued to technological devices. And we adults get pretty glued, too!  The list goes on- endless laughs from YouTube, pictures to scroll through on Facebook, games galore, and music to enjoy.  But where has all this information and fun left us?  In the book Alone Together, author Sherry Turkle discusses many of the effects of technology today.  She says that, in many ways, we are more connected than we have ever been, yet in other ways, we are feeling more and more isolated from each other.  Turkle argues that it is easy to become so immersed in technology that we ignore what we know about life.[1]  We think that one of these things we “know” about life is our need for human relationships.     

We find it interesting how groups of teens and adults will sit together on their phones.  Ever wonder why people sit staring at their screens…together?  To us, this shows that we still understand that nothing can replace human connection.  Technology is wonderful and useful, but many would probably agree that laughing alone, playing games alone, and learning alone is just not as satisfying as also having someone to share it with.  Even the “share” option on social media sites doesn’t quite cut it.  We love our technology, but we know it is not enough.  There is just something about being with others that brings a needed layer of joy into our lives.  The shared human experience seems to fulfill an innate desire, yet we often allow this experience to take a back seat.  So, how do we compete with all the screens? 

This topic becomes particularly fascinating when we turn our attention to the effects technology is having on the relationship between parents and their children.  Mere brief observation allows one to note how, at a very early age, children are being exposed to technological devices.  Gadgets that not long ago were reserved for adults are now commonplace among elementary age children.  Children are being afforded numerous opportunities for learning and play through technology, but we pause to ask several questions. What is being sacrificed in order to accommodate this movement?  With regard to relationship, how can parents compete with the screens in their kids’ lives?  Can parents provide anything more exciting or interesting than what screens can offer? And how often are parents and children “together” in proximity but actually “apart” through divided attentions?  What impact does technological distraction have on parent-child relationships?  What is lost as children are not encouraged to play with others and build relationships with others?  What are children being told if it becomes much easier for them to interact with their parents via text or Skype rather than from playing together in the back yard?  These are big questions, some with tough answers.

At IDEALS for Families and Communities, we offer parent workshops, which teach parents of children ages 3-10 a special way to play with their children that builds connection and teaches skills for life for your kids.  And, get this – the kids truly LOVE IT, so much so that they don’t care about having devices.  Let IDEALS give you some tools to create a time in your week that both you and your kids will look forward to and does not involve devices.  It can take only 30 minutes a week to increase connection within your family. 

The next scheduled workshop is THIS Saturday, Nov. 2nd, a 5-hour workshop where parents come together (without kids) to learn this new way of play, and then the workshop will be followed by three individually scheduled follow-up visits for each family to come with their kids to get extra coaching to develop these skills.

You can register at our workshops page.
-Jon and Sharon Bryant


[1] Sherry Turkle. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 101. 

Keeping Our “Inner Hulk” In Check

With all of the recent super-hero movies, many of us may have identified at one time or another with one of the characters.  Maybe we would love to have the engineering ability of Iron Man, the super-strength of Captain America, or maybe even the ability to throw Thor’s hammer.  However, while we may hope to identify with all of the super-powers, we may most often identify with Bruce Banner, the Hulk.  Bruce Banner is always combating the “stress monster” that comes about when his anger gets the best of him.  He manages to keep it all in check sometimes, but when he loses control, he transforms into the Hulk and can no longer think rationally about his decisions.  Does this sound familiar when stress and anger get the best of you?

While we may not transform into the Hulk, stress can cause mental, emotional, and physical problems when we experience it long term.  So, how can we keep our inner Hulk in check?  Bruce Banner is very aware of his heart rate, breathing patterns, and how his body specifically responds to stress.  All of these things are key to managing our own stress when life throws us curve balls.  Self-awareness or knowing how our bodies individually respond to stress is the key to managing it.  Next, once we recognize these heightened types of mental, emotional, or physical patterns in ourselves… stop… and BREATHE.  Breathe deeply from your belly.  Imagine how a baby breathes when it is sleeping- its belly, not its chest, rises and falls.  Diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing can help slow our heart rate and bring our other physiological symptoms back to manageable levels.  Taking time each day to breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes, and it will make a big difference when the stress monster creeps up in the day.

Kristi Dugger

Staff Therapist

Why Family Meals?

There was a time when the cardinal rule for kids was: be home for dinner.  No more.  Children don’t just go out to play with somebody somewhere on the street.  They have activities scattered here, there, and everywhere, often scheduled at times when families used to eat dinner and requiring an adult to drive them.  Dinner is grabbed at a drive-thru before or after practice or scouts.

It is the modern way.  Maybe it is a way that needs challenging.  Much good can happen at the family dinner table:  The highs and lows of each person’s day can be celebrated, problem solved, or mourned.  You can share jokes (even those funny to an eight year old) and news.  You can pray to remember God with thankfulness before you eat.  Shared food makes for shared feelings and lives.

There are some things NOT to do at dinner. Discipline anybody for what happened earlier in the day; argue; text, talk on the phone, or otherwise say “other people are more important than my family”; become the Inquisition; fight over what is not being eaten; lecture; tease beyond happy banter.

INSTEAD, let everyone tell the best or worst moment of the day; talk about the news or a topic of interest; plan family fun; tell or retell family stories; express caring for each other, extended family, and friends.  Make up a communal story (one person starts, then another adds, etc).  Have fun!

Try turning off the TV and parking the cell phone in another room.  Have meals that people enjoy.  Sit around the table together.  If you almost never have a family dinner, start by doing it once or twice a week.  If you do it that often, add a day or add something to make it special—breakfast for dinner, make your own sundaies, each week somebody gets to pick the menu.  If someone does some of those “not do’s” at dinner, find a way to keep on having family, to keep on having fun.  It builds memories, communication skills, and bonds.

-Mary Ortwein, Founder and Director