Jan 8, 2019 in Analysis

The Family Dynamic Essay

The Family Dynamic: A Research Proposal to Raise Awareness of the Importance of Quality Family Interaction

Executive Summary

In today’s society, technology allows us to communicate with people across the globe in real-time. However, reckless use of these devices might damage the relations as well as diminish the pleasure from personal interactions. Recently our society has borne witness to a decline in the family dynamic and it is thought that this is a very dangerous path to continue on. A large portion of this decline is attributed to the unabated saturation of handheld electronics into our lives and homes. The overuse of technology in families does, in fact, have many negative side effects. Family dinner time has been reduced to sitting around a table while everyone’s attention is directed to their cell phone. This technology is not always used to benefit the family and might often result in conflicts between children and their parents. These problems can be solved through various strategies for taking control of technology use in our homes.  Parents should focus on the dangers to children posed by ready access to the internet provided by smart phones, laptops, and tablets and control how children use these apps. Parents should also spend much time with their children and prioritize the well-being of the family, besides interacting in neutral environments without smartphones nearby.

Introduction

In today’s society, technology allows us to communicate with people across the globe in real-time.  E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and many other applications and services enable people as never before to do business, socialize, or engage in commerce with just the click of a mouse.  During the early and mid-20th century, in the absence of most modern technology, when two-parent nuclear families were the norm in middle-class America. Additionally, family dinners at home were a common evening ritual. When dad came home from after a hard day’s work, mom would have dinner waiting (NCAA Columbia University, 2012). Kids might have after-school activities, but were usually required to be home in time for dinner. In the 21st century, the family dinner is more of an evening rarity.

Technology has changed the way we communicate of that there is no doubt. However, this has changed how people interact with those closest to them (Decker, 2010). The families, parents, and caretakers are battling for the attention of their children while they themselves are seduced by the same technology.  Family dinner time has been reduced to sitting around a table while everyone’s attention is directed to their cell phone (Decker, 2010). Conversations occur electronically, not face to face.  What effect is this having on the family, and by consequence, society itself is a concern. Technology is now the integral part of the daily lives of many Americans.

Throughout history, society has witnessed many changes in the family dynamic. Recently our society has borne witness to a decline in the family dynamic and it is thought that this is a very dangerous path to continue on (Klorer, 2009). A large portion of this decline is attributed to the unabated saturation of handheld electronics into our lives and homes. While people believe that these types of electronics can indeed provide benefits in our society, the overuse and dependency people have fostered has reached a point of diminishing returns. Quality family interaction has been empirically proven to be beneficial to the development and success of a society’s youth and therefore by extension, society itself (Decker, 2010). Cell phones and other handheld electronics can be used as a useful tool in parenting and family interaction, not however as a substitution.

Problem Definition

Today’s youth takes part in more after-school activities than ever, and many parents have to go straight from work to soccer practice, piano lessons, or car pools. There simply isn’t enough time available for cooking, and eating is often done on the run. What about the precious few remaining hours of the day? Enter cell phones and other small handheld electronic devices. Even when there is some small amount of free time for families to spend interacting with each other, more often than not this time is spent interacting with some type of the electronic device instead. With research providing empirical evidence of a positive correlation between quality family interaction and parent/child relationships, and a child’s academic success and personal development, we as parents are literally playing an active role in reducing our children’s, and by extension our societies chances of success by allowing this trend to continue. This is not a job for lawmakers and government officials.  This is even more personal than a grass roots movement.  To change this situation, it must be addressed at the most intimate level, the family unit.  Parents must take control of their households, starting with themselves.

The New Technology

The world is changing with the coming of technology into the contemporary culture which has drastically changed the social norms to incorporate technology into the daily lives of children. Nowadays, it is not unusual for one to see children playing games on their portable video systems whilst at eating places with their parents (Decker, 2010). These trends appear to be appalling and they emerge from the evolving society. Most people are not strangers to the scenarios where a family group sits down to have a meal together, interacting, laughing and swapping stories as they catch up with news, but not certainly with the ones seated with them. These days, it is not strange to have a family member’s cell phone useful on the dinner table. The cell phone is easily within reach to look up for movies times, show off photos, check emails, or talk to one or two calls (Decker, 2010). It is only a few people who o not give a quick glimpse at their cell phones every from time to time.

Additionally, the multifunctional cell phones of these days have become a requisite lifeline to the rest whole world. People might expect that the extensive availability of the cell phones enhances interpersonal connections through allowing people to, constantly stay in touch. However, recent studies show that these cell phones can hurt people’s close relationships, such as family (Decker, 2010). Startlingly, it has been found that just having a mobile phone close by without even glancing it, can become so detrimental to people’s endeavors at interpersonal connections.

In addition, such technology use is detrimental to good parenting. When parents continuously use their smartphones in front of their children, they break the first rule of parenting, which is showing up (Decker, 2010). Most parents glance at their cell phones whilst out eating at restaurants in the company of their children. In such scenarios, there is a more likelihood for the children to misbehave when the parents are busy paying attention to the devices. Caregivers and parents who also get highly absorbed in the technology devices appear to have less engaged or much negative interactions with the children (Decker, 2010).

 

The digital life of children has turned them into very different creatures. As the society has become connected via cell phones, social networking, and the internet, this capability to contact anyone instantly might pose great risks to the young children. When they interact with each other using the cell phones or internet, such social experience is far different from speaking with people face-to-face. When people communicate in these manners, they are concealed at the back the digital wall that can allow people to make conversations they may not have in person. For example, users of a dating website would be much likely to ask a person to chat using the site rather that they would with face-to-face interactions. Consequently, hiding at the back the digital wall for the media-based interactions has caused today’s children to develop a disconnection from themselves or from even others (Klorer, 2009).

Technology has entirely changed the manner in which the people of America communicate and relate including with their children. The technology of these days has become over only using computers at work or checking emails at home (Klorer, 2009). Today’s technology has become a continuous stream of information that flows into people’s lives via cell phone notifications, the easily available wireless internet, and the many of the functional apps. These social networks provide the users with an opportunity to create personal profiles and connect plus share information with other users. The negative impacts of using these social networks are not restricted to the individual users only, but they have a potential to affect even their entire families (Klorer, 2009).

The more regularly people use the internet or cell phones, the less the time these particular individuals spend with their families (Klorer, 2009). Furthermore, when the internet is used by the teenagers for social purposes other than for the educational purposes, the degree of intergenerational conflict within the family becomes high. Moreover, school-age children embrace the technology similar to no other segment. Teenagers are the gateway for the family to the web. Because of the differences in literacy regarding technology, power dynamics in the contemporary families are prone to be reversed (Decker, 2010). This reverse provides the adolescence more independence plus control above their relations with people within and outside the family circle.

Technology and Family

The new technologies, for example, the internet plus the cell phones, influence the manner in which people see as well as understand communication. The different technology types and the different purposes and ways of using this technology influence the relationships between individuals in very diverse ways (Klorer, 2009). For example, whilst people often praise cell phones for connecting them, reckless use of these devices might damage the relations as well as diminish the pleasure from personal interactions. This technology might present an opportunity to families to spend time as one and share interests of leisure by searching for information online and interacting with distant relatives plus sharing pictures. However, this technology is not always used to benefit the family and might often result in conflicts between children and their parents (Klorer, 2009).

The issues associated with a member of a family adopting technology are very intricate and not limited to the excessive use of technology by children. Children also compete with technology for the attention from their parents (Klorer, 2009). For, example, many parents spend time on the mobile phones whilst attending the sporting events for their children (Decker, 2010). Similarly, most teenagers desire to establish a ban to mobile phones at the family dinner tables for their parents to leave the work behind and pay attention to the family. For these reasons, it is clear that the technology is likely to influence the relationships between the parents with the children and the parent’s relations with each other.

The use of mobile phones has both negative and positive impacts on the family members, their relationships, and communication (Taylor, 2013). The main positive feature with using cell phones is their capability to increase the children’s safety plus that of the other family members. For the family all together, cell phones can at times be convenient tools for managing leisure and work, as well as facilitating the everyday activities of the family, such as picking up kids from school.

Parents and Technology Use

Parents of adolescent children spend a standard of approximately six hours a day with their computers, mobile devices like smartphones, TVs, video games, tablets, and video iPods. The television and computers take up the most of the home media use time for the parents (Klorer, 2009). Smart phones come up next with the parents’ use averaging only below an hour per day spent using the cell phones for activities like playing games, surfing the internet, or watching videos. Decker (2010) argues that the overuse of technology by parents negatively affects the quality of interaction with their children. Decker cites a 2008 study by ‘Harris Interactive’ which showed that 9 out of 10 adults owned a cell phone. While Decker concedes that cell phone interaction may not ‘quantify a parent’s level of dedication and love for their children’, she argues that it sends the message ‘you do not warrant my attention.’

Additionally, the use of internet by spouses might reduce the quantity of time they spend on other leisure recreations with each other or with their families. Moreover, the use of internet by spouses might increase the chances of reconnecting with long-lost friends as well as romantic partners and create an escape setting for the spouses experiencing marital problems. Internet using can also lead to the virtual infidelity in spouses (Taylor, 2013).

Children and Technology Use

The overuse of technology in families does, in fact, have many negative side effects.  Gussie (2014) argues that many children make their personal ‘connections’ in cyberspace to the detriment of real-time- face-to-face encounters with other people. Gussie specifically highlights the negative effects on children caused by this ‘technological detachment’, as the effects on attachment, attention deficit disorders, and interpersonal skills.

Background

The advancement in mobile phone technologies development is combined with the likely of the present day cell phones to carry out the same functions that were originally performed by computers. The expertise level, the technology type used plus the reason it is used for differs between the children and the adults (Klorer, 2009). Regardless of the need for the special education on the side of many teens, they are more confident with using computers and they see themselves as experts compared to their parents. The activities in which the adults and children usually engage in with the use of technology also vary. Whilst the teen prefers using instant messenger as well as play online games, the parents use the internet to read or send emails and research for services and products (Klorer, 2009). The use of mobile phones also differs between children and the parents. For example, the teens send text messages five times more compared to the adults.

Additionally, differences in the degree of computer expertise between the children and the parents might also lead to the conflicts in the families (Taylor, 2013). The major reasons for the parent-children conflicts related to the internet are the imbalance of power because of higher expertise levels amongst the teens. Interestingly, when the parents are much skillful than the children, this could result in unwelcome consequences. Parents, as experienced users, can maintain their share of computer or cell phone time which will provoke the competition with the children.

Technology can also have a physical effect on a person’s brain and its development and technological overuse can be seen as an addiction as much as one to drugs or alcohol. The technology is rewiring people’s brains (Richtel, 2010). Family dinners are imperative in relation to the propensity for addiction and substance abuse among the youth. The parent/child relationships have effects of on the children’s drug abuse and addiction (Richtel, 2010). Statistics shows that teens are four times more likely to use marijuana if they report a ‘less than very good relationship’ with their father. This study gives credibility to the existence of a direct relationship between the quality of a family dynamic and the well-being of our youth (Richtel, 2010). Therefore, specific types of family interactions such as the family dinner are important for the person’s development.

 The new technology has actually changed the relationship between parent and child by limiting communication time and how technology has become a surrogate parent in many homes. Taylor (2013) states that, the divide in the family has grown due to the increased use of technology among children, limiting their availability to communicate with their parents. Also, many parents are unwilling or unable to gain the same level of proficiency in new technologies as their children, causing children to see them as lacking the authority to regulate its use.  Also, children have more freedom due to the technology of today to be in unsupervised contact with their friends and others (Turkle, 2011).

Additionally, face-to-face contact is becoming less common as people delve into their technological devices and communities (Turkle, 2011). The people’s identities are becoming more tied to online persona and less to actual personal encounters.  Parents are spending more time checking their Blackberries and iPods than time spent with their own children (Klorer, 2009).  Children are feeling more alone and neglected as their parents gravitate to electronic devices and away from quality time with their children.  Turkel (2011) substantiates this claims that the family dynamic is being changed and damaged as we become closer to machines than to people in our lives.

Positive family interactions, such as ‘supportive parenting, parents knowing youths’ friends, and frequent family conversations about education and goals are the characteristics of the family dynamics and youth educational trajectories. Dayton (2013) states that ‘supportive family relationships’ promote first-generation college attendance, perpetuate educational success from one generation to the next, and also protect against downward educational mobility. This illustrates and confirms the correlation between a strong family dynamic and a child’s educational success. Nearly all of the research that has been conducted on this topic provides evidence of a negative correlation between technology use and quality family interaction. That is when technology use is high in the home; parent-child and even parent-parent, interaction is low (Turkle, 2011). The evidence suggests that the overuse of technology by children and parents have many more negative consequences than originally thought.  This information can be used to allow for the better education of the audience on exactly what factors affect family interaction, and exactly what the individual effects are.

Plan of Investigation

The decay of the family dynamic due to technology is a well-documented issue.  Articles discussing this problem, as well as potential solutions will be the initial focus of our research.  Other possible research will include the following.

  • Research the amount of family time in the past compared with that of today.
  • Survey of a sample of teens and their parents as to how much family time and communication they share.
  • Compare the time spent using technology today with that of 10, 20, and 30 years ago.
  • Research possible connection between academic and career success and the amount of (or lack of) family time.
  • Compare the number of families that have designated family time with those that do not, and the effect of this on school grades and job success.
  • Survey adults about their individual childhood family dynamic and compare results with professional/academic achievement.

Proposed Solutions

It is true that many people do not exercise the face-to-face socializations as frequent as they did prior to the era of the smartphones. However, various strategies for taking control of technology use in our homes exist.  Parents should start by focusing on the dangers to children posed by ready access to the internet provided by smart phones, laptops, and tablets.  Then utilize the available strategies for controlling television viewing in your home, as well as internet time.  This source for ideas can help to lessen the effects of technology on the family dynamic.

Interacting in neutral settings with no cell phones close by appears to foster connectedness, closeness, perceptions of empathy and interpersonal trust, which as the building blocks of relationships. The new studies suggest that the use of cell phones might serve to remind people of the broader network to which they could connect, inhibiting their capability to connect with the persons next to them. The use of cell phones might even diminish the social consciousness of people. For the family to maintain a quality relationship, people need to prepare for the imperative conversations via throwing their cell phones into the closets (NCAA Columbia University, 2012). Parents also need to connect to each other as a species.

In addition, there is a need for parental control of the technological use for children. Although the technology can be beneficial to the children, parental settings and control for the teens using the technology are needed. The parents need to the first control what the children have access to. For, example, the parents should not allow children to have free and unsupervised internet access. There are many educationally beneficial programs, apps, and sites. However, parents need to ensure that their children have access only to the right technologies. Adult supervision and explicit parental control settings might not necessarily be implemented. Nonetheless, if the children use the internet linked technology autonomously for any particular time, the parents should then have ways to help them access to the pre-approved content or sites.

The other thing that parents need to manage for their children is the length of time that these children spend using technology (NCAA Columbia University, 2012). It is suggested that children under the age of eight years should have no excess of one to two hours of daily screen. In general, screen time that the children are staring at TVs, tablets, video games, computers, or mobile phones, should be limited (National Consumers League, 2011). This limitation will, in turn, limit the length of time the children sit inactively. Again, limiting the time spent on gadgets will permit children to the scale for unaided creativity and imagination as well as encourage the social skills of people. Another thing is that parents should control the use of Smartphone with their children (National Consumers League, 2011). Parents should employ tools that enable them to see who the children call or text most often, the apps frequently.

In addition, children and parents have the human rights to spend moments together (National Consumers League, 2011). The main goal of family interactions is to keep the child-parent relationships, as well as other family attachments. This relationship will set up a safe and sound based attachment environment to lessen the sense of neglect which most children experience when there is no good relationship with their parents. Communication and interaction within the family is very imperative as it helps to build understanding amongst people. Effective communication and interactions help people to express their ideas, feelings, thoughts and also helps in creating a special connection with the treasured ones in the family. It is believed that there should exist understanding plus openness between the members of a family, and this is only feasible via effective communication and interaction amongst all of them. Interaction and communication within a family is extremely necessary for each person to get family support for everything (National Consumers League, 2011).

Family interactions can enhance the ability of the parents to appropriately and adequately relate to and care for their children (National Consumers League, 2011). Additionally, it is through these family interactions that parents can establish and maintain secure-based bonds with their children. Healthy family interactions and relationships help all the family members to feel safe as well as connected to each other. In healthy family interactions, individuals are capable of trusting and relying on one another for love, support, warmth, and affection (National Consumers League, 2011). Stronger family relationships benefits children who thrive on the feelings of belonging plus the affection coming from having supportive and caring parents. Therefore, the quality of good family interactions is much imperative for the wellbeing of children more than the composition or size of the family (National Consumers League, 2011). As a result, people need to embrace the key family strengths and build strong, affirmative relationships that promote the wellbeing of the family and also support the mental health of the children.

The building blocks of strong family relationship such as good communication, togetherness, sharing activities, affection, support, acceptance and resilience make families strong. Members of a family should listen to one another and interact honestly, with openness (National Consumers League, 2011). They need to share similar beliefs and values that create a feeling of bonding and belonging. Moreover, members should spend time together to do things they enjoy, including having dinner together in a respective and appreciating manner. Lastly, the family members should show commitment by seeing the wellbeing of the family as the first priority as well as acting accordingly with loyalty and commitment (National Consumers League, 2011).              

Qualifications

The researchers are both family men who have witnessed the evolution of technology throughout our lifetimes, and have seen its firsthand effect on the family.  Also, the researchers have experience in dealing directly with teens and their parents in and out of the school setting.  The researchers also have ready access to a large group of teens and their parents for survey purposes.  In addition, both of the researchers have experience in the field of technology and are well versed in its uses.  These qualifications should enable the researchers to give a concise and clear study of this problem and possible solutions. 

Conclusion

Finding time for family in the world of today is a challenge.  By studying the root cause and effect relationship between the rise of technology and the decay of the family dynamic, we can better understand ways to reverse this trend, as well as promote a more family friendly use of technology.  Technology is always moving forward, and to keep the family unit as an important basis of our society, families will have to keep pace.  It’s a fast paced world, and the pace is only going to continue to increase.  Finding ways to for families to keep pace with technology, while not losing touch with each other, is a daunting task, but one worth researching.

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