Technology connects me to work, news, and entertainment 24/7. That type of access has its benefits, but when left unchecked, it can dominate my time, distracting me from the things that matter most. New research on the patterns of technology used by parents has me wondering, what are my kids learning about life as they watch me check my phone for the nth time tonight?
As a web designing, blogging, video streaming, tweeting, RSS reading kind of guy, it isn't hard for me to imagine where my children picked up their obsession with technology. Like most, my kids have to be in front of any screen that is turned on. They like it even more when they can put their sticky little fingers all over it which is why the plasma in our living room looks like a piece of finger print art. Dirty screens aside, I generally enjoy watching my kids interact with technology. The thing I’m noticing that has me concerned is that internet speed isn’t the only thing that is lost in our home when we all enter our own isolated gaming, streaming, networking and emailing worlds.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thinking about pulling the plug. In fact, I don’t think that technology is the problem. I appreciate all of the upsides that technology provides us as a family. Sites like Khan Academy have been essential in helping me to give my kindergartener a love of math and my preschoolers have learned a lot from their favorite coloring and puzzle apps. Technology can bring us together for family movie nights and around interactive books on our iPad. Many daddy daughter dates have been as simple and sweet as sitting in our favorite frozen yogurt shop and taking turns catapulting angry Chewbacca birds into tiny Storm Troopers on my phone. Truth be told, I really like technology and I’m thankful that I get to share it with my children.
As with most things in my home, when it comes to technology, I want to be responsible. I want to use technology to create shared experiences with my kids. I’m simply becoming aware that it won’t happen naturally. Dr. Steiner-Adair suggests that “We as parents have to be much more mindful about how our own wiring is interacting with technology in those moments when our children need us.” Unfortunately, I am wired to think “I can reply to this email in less than two minutes – I should just take care of it quickly!” and, “If I let the kids watch another episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, I can finish this blog before dinner.” But the point of the technology should be that it provides more time for me to spend with my kids, not another reason to tell them “Hold on, daddy is busy.”
So I am trying to change. I want to be more aware of who or what is getting the best of my attention and take simple steps to be more engaged and less distracted when I am with my kids.
I’d love to hear from you. Does technology interrupt your time as a family, or bring you closer together? How do you use technology to create time with your kids? How do you keep it from becoming a distraction? Family is important. Leave a comment below and let’s think through this together.
Justin is a contributing author who loves to read and write about the advancements of technology and robotics. When not at work, you can find him conquering Risk and Catan or on an adventure with his wife and kids. Last Father's Day he received a #1 dad shirt, so now that's official.
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