The truth is, not all technology is bad. We just have to find creative and safe ways to use it to strengthen family relationships and Amy is here to show us how.
Over to you, Amy!
Using Technology Safely to Keep Families Together
As charge cords and adaptors are cluttering and taking over our kitchen counters, many parents are beginning to notice that technology has invaded almost every aspect of our family life. The majority of us, our children included, are toting cell phones, tablets, and laptops at levels never seen before. Our technology fascination is reconstructing the way we communicate, interact, and bond.
With all the increases in cybercrimes, cyberbullying, sexting, and identity thefts it can be unnerving for us to realize the dark side our technology harbors. These digital threats lurking behind computer and cell phone screens pose a threat to our families’ safety, but understanding these issues can help our families avoid unneeded sorrows and ultimately bring us together.
Maintaining Family Life In The Digital Era
Our modern way of living has saturated our lives with a myriad of mobile devices which connects our children to peers, social media, apps, gaming experiences, and video streaming services 24/7. One survey conducted by the PEW Research Center found that 92 percent of teenagers confessed to using the Internet every day!
While it might be easy to overlook our families’ reliance on electronics, we can’t ignore the potential health problems our technology exposes to our loved ones. The digital era is impacting our physical health in the following ways:
- higher risk of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes
- increased neck and tendon problems from poor posture and technique
- exposure to self harming techniques- pro anorexia sites, cutting, and risky challenges
- interrupted sleep patterns and circadian rhythms
- greater probability of anxiety and stress due to the constant connectivity and need to manicure an ideal digital persona
- cyberbullying has been linked to depression and thoughts of suicide
Advocating Safe Technology To Bring Families Together
Understanding the digital dangers facing our families is the first step in safely managing the threats of technology. However, we need to consider the positive effects technology has to offer our lives. With a little effort and proactive measures, our families can bond and interact with each other in a way that was inconceivable 20 years ago.
Listed below are seven suggestions to make technology help bring families safely together:
Save time and money by using the tools and apps available to make the most of our time. Take advantage of online bill pay, school websites, calendars, and texting to keep the family schedule and finances under control. Work smarter, not harder.
Follow the suggested guidelines for devices and apps. Read the fine print for cell phones, handheld devices, and social media apps. Many sites have minimum age requirements to prevent our youth from being exposed to dangerous situations and our devices often come with suggestions to protect our health. Take a few minutes to make sure everyone is connected safely.
Get extended family connected! Reach out to senior family members and introduce them to technology that can help the generations interact and communicate easily. Embrace social media and provide the necessary training to help everyone, grandparents included, update and share daily events.
Create a family technology contract. Listen to your children and take their input seriously and discuss what is expected when it comes to technology usage. Specifically lay out the rules, expectations, and consequences so every member is on the same page.
Develop “no technology zones”. Outline areas of the house, like bedrooms and bathrooms, that should always be free of devices. Include the family dinner table or other special activities like game night or outings. This will prevent opportunities for inappropriate activity like sexting or cyberbullying, but provide some much needed down time and chances to bond as a family.
Teach social media etiquette as a child ages. Our society is increasingly digital and even the youngest members of our family are tapping screens and logging onto the Internet. Most three year olds regularly use the Internet, so it is never too early to start! Keep it simple and add to this process as a child ages or begins encountering new topics like sexting and oversharing.
Actively monitor our children’s Internet and cell phone activity. It’s easy to believe that our children would seek help if they encounter a frightening scenario, but we need to consider the fact that 70 percent of teens admit to hiding their activity from parents. The best thing we can do to help our family members stay safe is to know what they are doing online. Know their contacts, friends, sites frequented, apps they download, and check in on their social presence every now and then.
Far too often we label technology as the villain, but it can be the unsung hero in uniting our families. The instant messaging and connectivity our devices offer have unlimited possibilities to promote authentic communication and organization in our lives. As parents, we need to challenge ourselves to make technology work for us and not against us.
Amy enjoys writing on teen safety, effective parenting tips and strategies, anti-drunk driving and anti-bullying issues. She is also a huge advocate of teen safety on social media and will soon be hosting a series of webinars on the issue. Amy is also a proud member of MAAD and the National Bullying Prevention Center.