It is common knowledge that with every passing year a new technological advancement has entered a family’s household. However, what is often overlooked by the media is how that technology is effecting the family. Relationships among parents and their children are drastically changing, and although there are many perks to technology, developing a closer relationship with your child is not one of them. In the past family dinners would consist of orally communicating with one another on the events of the day, but as technology has slowly forced its way into the family dynamic, dinner often consists of each family member’s eyes glued to a screen and avoidance of one another. With the relentless technological rise, it is dire that families learn to communicate with one another and notice the negative effects that media is placing upon their relationships.
When children are constantly interacting with others through technology, it is likely that they lose the ability to act civilly outside of the digital realm. Since 1999, the daily use of technological screens has increased from five to seven-point-five hours for children between the ages of eight and eighteen. This increase has dangerously passed the two hours or less recommendation set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (Sanders 1). Parents may notice an emotional shift in their children when they are online too often, which results in Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS). Often, when parental figures notice their children are acting unlike themselves, they immediately send them off to a psychiatrist to get diagnosed as bipolar or depressed. However, according to Victoria Dunckley, an integrative child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, many of these children are misdiagnosed.
Dunckley believes that through technology “enormous amounts of information are taken in and processed, draining mental reserves and fracturing attention. Media multi-tasking and interactivity raise arousal and stress levels. Manmade radiation from both the device and from wireless communications perturb brain waves” (Dunckley). When this occurs it often leaves adolescents feeling uneasy and depressed. In order to stop children from being misdiagnosed from ESS, it is vital that parents overlook how often their children use technology. Technology can provide excellent elements within one’s life, but only through limitations: “for young children, screen time may best be managed through rules and enforcement strategies around technology use in the home, guided by parents who utilize warmth and clear communication with their children” (Sanders 5). If a parent nurtures their children through vocalized words, and is aware of how often their child is online, the prevention of ESS is entirely possible.
Along with being aware of how to manage technology use in one’s home, screen-time can also be managed in a healthy environment when completing school work. In a technologically advanced society, it is expected that children will have assignments that includes technology. When these situations occur, especially if dealing with a child younger than eight years old, it is important to help the child in a positive manner. In a recent study:
young children worked with adults (e.g., parents, grandparents, relatives) to achieve the shared goal of the technology-related activity and reinforce their ties with family members. For instance, the 3-6- year-old grandchildren and the grandparents helped each other in computer activities. While the children taught their grandparents how to play a computer game, the grandparents helped the children with the linguistic and cultural knowledge needed to play the game (Ching-Ting 95).
There are benefits to technology, of course, but one has to know when it is appropriate to rely on it. It can bring families together, but more often than not, it creates a wedge in the family communication dynamic.