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