I was addicted the first time I picked up my mobile device. I love technology and the efficiencies it offers me. I have a long commute to work and I use the time to catch up on emails and surf the web. I was making such good use of my commute that I decided I could use some of that time to return to school, something I had wanted to do for a while. As long as I could find a suitable online program and do the bulk of the work on my commute, it could work. Like 65% of all students, I was lucky enough to find an online program that would make it possible for me to take classes remotely and save me another commute (CDW Government, 2011). I really enjoy school and work, so I find I fill much of my downtime with them. It’s hard to stop, especially with everything so accessible via my devices. I find myself always looking something up, working on a paper or doing emails. However, so engrossed in my devices I was unaware of the negative impact my constant technology use was having on my family.
My wakeup call came recently when my husband’s parents took my son for the evening so we could have a nice dinner out all to ourselves. As soon as my husband left to wash his hands I pulled out my phone and started to check my emails. For some reason, I can’t sit still for 2 minutes anymore and in the stillness, my mind always turns to my devices. At first, I didn’t even notice him come back. I was so deeply engrossed in my texting and emails that I just kept typing. Then, I noticed a text pop up. It read, “are you going to talk to me?” Yikes! My husband had sat watching me glued to my phone for about 10 minutes waiting for me to notice him, but then had realized I might not, ever! This wasn’t the first time I have been so engrossed in my devices that I had given those around me less than my full attention, but it was the moment I realized my constant use of technology had started to affect my family.
According to a 2015 study by Harris, Harris, Carlson, & Carlson, information and communication overload can cause work-family conflict. While I love the efficiencies technology has offered me, until my husband had texted me, I had neglected to see the negative impact it was having on my family.
Take a moment to examine your own family time and remember to keep you and your family’s technology usage in check.
3 Negative Family Impacts You Can Avoid
Sobel-Lojeski and Westwell (2015), found we build a gradual sense of detachment as we spend time with our devices versus each other. Even, when we are together, we are often splitting our focus between those in front of us and our devices. Although physically with each other, we are not spending quality time together. This can cause feelings of neglect and jealousy.
Set boundaries and turn off your devices when with family. At least limit your device usage and be sure to plan quality time together when everyone will have each other’s undivided attention free from our devices.
According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, our increased use of technology is contributing to a “sitting disease” (Lear et al., 2014). They reported that only 9% of children and 15% of adults got the recommended amount of exercise they need each week (ParticipACTION, 2015). At the same time, Statistics Canada reported that one in four Canadian adults were obese (Navaneelan & Janz, 2014). Don’t let this happen to you.
Ensure your children get the recommended 60 minutes of exercise each day, and you get the recommended 150 minutes a week (ParticipACTION, 2015). Get outside a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your family to get some exercise. Start by going for a short walk after dinner each night and a hike on the weekend. This doesn’t mean texting and walking! Leave your device at home and take in the sights and sounds around you. Adequate exercise will also help you sleep better.
In 2015, the Educause Centre for Analysis and Research reported 92% of all students own and use a smartphone for education purposes and 91% of all students own and use laptops for the same purpose (Dahlstrom, Brooks, Grajek & Reeves, 2015). With so many devices in our homes, the National Sleep Foundation reported that 89% of adults and 75% of children have at least one electronic device in their bedrooms at night and over one third of adults and children leave them on (National Sleep Foundation, 2014). Not surprisingly, this leads to less than an ideal sleep. According to the CDC, lack of sleep is associated with diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and depression (National Sleep Foundation, 2014).
Sleep is clearly important, and you won’t be able to get enough if you’re digital displays are lighting up your room, or they keeps buzzing all night with emails, texts and tweets. Turn your devices off before going to bed. This rule should apply to the whole family. Ensure you follow the CDC sleep guidelines and get at least 7-8 hours as an adult and your children get 10.
Now reclaim your family! Switch off your devices and enjoy a screen free moment with your loved ones – that’s what I am going to do!
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