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Technology can both connect and disconnect families

An animated movie shows what might happen to society if technology is misused.

A recent trailer for the film Connected, to be released in September 2020, begins with a father watching home videos of time spent with his daughter, remembering back when he was her favourite person. His attempt to remove technology from the family dinner had backfired when he didn’t recognize her excitement of sharing a video she had created. He looks around and sees her always on her phone and not being part of the world as he wants her to be.  From that moment a family road trip begins and the family moves from being separated to understanding what is important to each other and how to share that.  

When you stop and look at the people around you, you see them using technology everywhere. People spend more time looking at their phones than they do looking at each other.  But we can also understand, as the trailer for Connected seems to suggest, that kids and their parents should try to understand each other’s point of view and that technology can be used to share the moments in positive ways. 

Society is in danger of losing real connections with each other.  If the amount of time spent on technology compared to the amount of time spent face-to-face continues to increase at the current rate, we will eventually reach the point where no one is connected with each other.

From speaking to various adults in writing this article, many believe that kids today are growing up in a world of technology and are spending way too much time sitting with their devices. For example Cathy, age 49, says,“Screen time is a source of frustration in our family if not used wisely . . . T.V., video games or watching endless YouTube or posts can add up quickly.”  

Many reports, articles and studies show that kids today spend much less time playing outside and much more time in front of a screen. Kids that are the ages of 8 to 18 are having more than 7 hours in front of a screen. Kids like me are growing up in a world of technology that is engaging and exciting, and we rarely want to do anything else, focused more on video games and YouTube, than spending time with each other or doing school work. My friends and I will often play with each other online rather than see each other in person. I have spoken to other kids at school and they often give the same response. Parents would rather see their kids going outside with their friends and playing sports and worry that in fact they may be losing the ability to play.  Between school, connecting with friends, playing games and entertaining themselves most of the day is spent on one gadget or another. 

Based on my conversations with parents, they are feeling disconnected from their kids because everyone is focused on different things and not spending enough time together. Jay, age 44 of Burnaby BC says, “Sometimes [technology] disconnects my immediate family because we all seem to be distracted by our devices.” 

Science shows that physical and emotional connection to others is very important for our mental health especially for families. It helps everyone with them emotionally by making them stay positive and connected to each other. It helps them physically by making sure they aren’t alone.

The teenagers I spoke to have a different perspective on technology. Josh, 15, says, “It’s fine to be on screen for a long time because that’s how I spend time with friends and talk to them, especially right now.”  16-year-old Emily says, “My family gets frustrated if I’m on my phone for too long. I definitely should not spend this much time on my phone but currently it’s the only way I can talk to my friends.” Teenagers enjoy spending time on social media, playing online games with friends or many hours watching videos made by other youth on various sites. In fact, many believe that social media helps them to feel good

Technology also has the power to bring people together. Right now with the coronavirus pandemic and social-distancing going, people are turning to technology more than ever before. People living in one household are locked in together but separated from the rest of their family and friends. No one is allowed to be together at all right now and they aren’t used to that. Our electronic devices are filling this void. 

A mother of teenagers in Langley BC says, “Currently [technology] is connecting us to our grandparents and family outside our immediate household because we can use media to talk to them face to face.” 

Kids are connecting with their friends by playing games online or on their gaming systems. They might be using apps like snapchat to talk to each other because they can’t hang out together. Alexis, age 21, says, “I am able to connect with my siblings over funny videos and show them things we can all laugh over.” She also says, “A balance between the time I spend on a device and in person with my family should be established if we do not want to let it take over our lives”.  

Right now it seems that technology can be used to bring people together and to disconnect people. How and when we use it by ourselves and with others can influence this.

Technology is a necessary part of this world but there are clear drawbacks in how it changes our relationships.

Technology writer Albert Tuman emphasizes he need to maintain physical social contact. “Phones have improved communication, but it is clear that they have deteriorated face-to-face contact,” Tuman says. “It is essential that we appreciate the need to communicate and interact with each other personally. As family members, you should learn to put away the gadgets and bond with each other.”

Cover Image: Sony Pictures Animations

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