by Tashica Jacobson
Electronic devices are everywhere today. Many families own a TV, computer, laptop, and tablet, with each member also having a personal phone. A 2015 survey found that 90% of households in the United States have three or more devices that connect to the internet, and that the average household has 5.2 connected devices. In a lot of ways these devices make our lives easier and allow us to accomplish what otherwise would be impossible.
Many times when we look at technology and the family we view it through a negatively colored lens. There are however, many different ways that technology can positively impact our life and our family. While it can distract from and strain family relationships, many times it allows us to connect and brings us together.
A story to illustrate my point: My sister has been in Mexico for the past six months, and during that time my father was diagnosed with cancer. This time has been very hard for everyone in my family but uniquely difficult for my sister. She has been alone in another country, while back home her family struggles through tests, prognoses, surgeries, and chemotherapy. At times her phone has been her life line, connecting her to the only people she really wanted to be with. Without this modern technology constant communication would not be an option.
Communication is one of simplest ways that we can use devices to improve family relationships. In one survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, respondents said the technology had the greatest impact on communication with family that lived elsewhere as opposed to family living close by. The internet makes staying in contact with distant family members easy. As in my sister’s case – it was only through texting and skype that she was able to reach out whenever she wanted. Because of these communication technologies, grandparents are still able to maintain bonds with their children and grandchildren, even when they live great distances apart.
Another simple way the internet allows families to feel connected is by the simpleness of it. My husband and I occasionally send text to each other while we are at work, just a quick reminder that I love him or that he is thinking about me. These can be sent within seconds and I don’t have to worry about interrupting his work, he’ll see it when he gets a free second. Simple messages likes these can be sent to all family members as a quick reminder that they are loved and cared about.
Children’s education and development also benefits from technology. Many schools provide parents with access to their children’s grades and teachers’ e-mails. This allows parents to be more aware of their children’s school performance, and they are able to connect with teachers online rather than finding time to schedule a conference to address concerns.
Technology also provides games and resources for parents to use with their children. There are websites devoted to games and activities that help children learn. They can be used as aids in teaching children phonics skills, mathematics, basic shapes and numbers, and many other skills.
Family entertainment has also changed due to the internet. While this can lead to family members each playing their own game on their own device there are also ways it can lead to the family coming together. Growing up, family movie time was always looked forward too, and was a great way of bringing the family together. It turned into a big event as all ten of us crammed onto the couches, distributed the popcorn and snacks and started a movie. We came together as we laughed at the funny parts, teased our mom for tears during the sad parts, and schemed together as kids for how we could stay up later. There are an endless ways families can utilize technology for family entertainment. What each family enjoys doing is different but the internet provides options for all.
When we utilize technology in appropriate ways it can be extremely beneficial to individuals and families. In fact “most adults consider their family today to be as close, or closer, than the family they grew up in as children thanks to the internet and cell phone.” So as parents and spouses we don’t always have to fear what technology can do, rather we can look for ways to utilize it for the benefit of our family in bringing us closer together.