Short Essay on The Effects of Technology on Families
Technology today is changing the way we do everything. The way we communicate, travel, market, import and export, everything. The past 20 years have seen an explosion of technological advancement unlike anything since the renaissance. People can talk to anyone, anywhere in the blink of an eye. We can cross over oceans in minutes. Technology even allows us to live completely isolated. Weaponry has advanced making war a whole new thing. Ideas can be transferred instantaneously making life incredibly easy and allowing people total comfort at home. The internet itself created millions of business opportunities and jobs, changing the economy drastically, but, what has technology done to families?
Our children are growing at an exponential rate. Math in school is much more complicated. Our economy is expanding, creating more areas of learning therefore, creating a higher educational demand on children. They are learning much more information on more topics at younger and younger ages. Media is creating ways for children to accomplish this learning expansion but, experts warn of dangers. Ellen Warlella, PhD, dean of the College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin says “There’s been a growing concern that in spite all of the hype, we may not have an adequate research base from which to assess what we know about the developmental consequences of children’s use of interactive technology, meaning we’re not sure if we are introducing too much to fast without enough research.” Other experts press the idea that technology is neither good nor bad but, powerful and should be used and treated as such (Sherry Turke, PhD. Of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
Technology also affects adults. It’s so easy to do so much. Huge numbers of people who regret not getting a degree are jumping at the chance to do so from the comfort of home. They don’t lose work time or family time. Couples who couldn’t have children can now do so. Technology has a huge effect on parenting. Just through communication parents can learn so much to do with their children. It’s easier to develop common ground.
But, what are the effects of technology on family life? We live in a fast paced world. People are losing touch with their humanity. Scientist believes that a family dinner is a basis for adolescent social behavior. Gary Small M.D. states “The other day I actually heard myself yelling to my teenage son “Stop playing that darn video game and come watch T.V with me!!” Our new technology allows us to do remarkable things—the potential negative impact of new technology on the brain depends on its content, context, and duration. -- I think what many define as our humanity is being lost or at least compromised as families become more fractured.” The NY Times published an article about a man “addicted” to technology. Kord Campbell has two monitors constantly streaming information. His wife states”—He can no longer be fully in the moment.” Mr. Campbell struggles with the effect of the deluge of data.
Scientist believes that the rush of information is causing people to lose focus, suffer from stress, and it’s said this “fractures their empathy” meaning technology is desensitizing us. I personally feel that technology should be used with caution. We have a chance as families to make technology an excellent tool but, we can also fall prey to a broken society where people depend on technology more than other people.
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Nowhere is the impact of popular culture and technology on children's relationships more noticeable than in families. Both influences have contributed to a growing divide between the traditional roles that children and their parents play while, at the same time, blurring those same lines between parents and children. Over the past two decades, children who, for example, watch television, have received messages from popular culture telling them that parents are selfish, immature, incompetent, and generally clueless, for example, from Malcolm in the Middle, Tool Time, Family Guy, Two and a Half Men, and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, not to mention reality TV shows such as Super Nanny and the Housewives franchise.
This divide has grown due to the increased use of technology among children in several ways. First, children's absorption in technology, from texting to playing video games, does by their very nature limit their availability to communicate with their parents. In fact, with headphones on or earbuds inserted, children are less likely to engage with their parents in any way, whether a simple greeting or a lengthy conversation.
Second, as digital immigrants, parents can struggle to gain proficiency and comfort with the new technology that their digital-native children have already mastered. This divergence in competence in such an important area of children's lives makes it more difficult for parents to assume the role of teacher and guide in their children's use of technology. Because of the lack of technological acumen on the part of many parents, they lack the authority, at least in the eyes of their children, to regulate its use. Due to parents' anxiety or apprehension about the use of technology, they may be unwilling to assert themselves in their children's technological lives. Because of their children's sense of superiority and lack of respect for parents' authority in these matters, children may be unwilling to listen to their parents' attempts to guide or limit their use of technology.
Third, computer and mobile technology have provided children with an independence in their communications with friends and others. Consider this. In previous generations, if children wanted to be in touch with a friend, they had to call them on the home phone which might be answered by a parent. Thus, parents had the opportunity to monitor and act as gatekeepers for their children's social lives.
Times have changed. New technology offers children independence from their parents' involvement in their social lives, with the use of mobile phones, instant messaging, and social networking sites. Of course, children see this technological divide between themselves and their parents as freedom from over-involvement and intrusion on the part of their parents in their lives. Parents, in turn, see it as a loss of connection to their children and an inability to maintain reasonable oversight, for the sake of safety and over-all health, of their children's lives. At the same time, perhaps a bit cynically, children's time-consuming immersion in technology may also mean that parents don't have to bother with entertaining their children, leaving them more time to themselves.
There is little doubt that technology is affecting family relationships on a day-to-day level. Children are instant messaging constantly, checking their social media, listening to music, surfing their favorite web sites, and watching television or movies. Because of the emergence of mobile technology, these practices are no longer limited to the home, but rather can occur in cars, at restaurants, in fact, anywhere there's a mobile phone signal.
It's not only the children who are responsible for the growing divide between parents and their offspring. Parents can be equally guilty of contributing to the distance that appears to be increasing in families. They are often wrapped up in their own technology, for example, talking on their mobile phones, checking email, or watching TV, when they could be talking to, playing with, or generally connecting with their children.
Interestingly, parents have attempted to counteract this growing divide not with actual face-to-face communication with their children, but by joining their children in cyberspace. A phenomenon that has caused considerable debate involves parents "friending" their children on Facebook (about 50 percent). Some parents use Facebook to keep track of their children's coming and goings. Other parents friend their children as a means of feeling closer to them. So what is their children's reaction to being "friends" with their parents? An informal survey I conducted of dozens of teenagers found that the dominant reaction can best be characterized as "EEEWWW!" Most children don't want their parents to be their "friends" or their friends, for that matter.
The fact is that family life has changed in the last generation quite apart from the rise of technology. The size of homes has grown by 50 percent, meaning family members can retreat to their own corners of the house, so there's less chance that parents and children will see each other. Because everyone is so busy with work, school, and extracurricular activities, there's less time for families to spend together. At technology to the mix and it only gets worse. It's gotten to the point where it seems like parents and children are emailing and texting each other more than they're talking -- even when they're at home together!
The ramifications of this distancing are profound. Less connection -- the real kind -- means that families aren't able to build relationships as strong as they could be nor are they able to maintain them as well. As a result, children will feel less familiarity, comfort, trust, security, and, most importantly, love from their parents. There is also less sharing which means that parents know less about what is going on in their children's lives and, consequently, have less ability to exert influence over them. Parents are also less able to not only offer appropriate supervision and guidance, but, at a more basic level, they are less able to model healthy behavior, share positive values, and send good messages to their children.
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