Technology Disconnect In Families

By Ashlea Johnson, LCSW

I meet with families all the time who discuss the disconnect in their families. They bemoan the technology that steals away the hours with their children as if it is some mystical force that they cannot control. I sit quietly for a long while most of the time and then eventually ask them, “Why don’t you have a technology curfew to protect some family time each day?” I wish you could see the befuddled look I get from parents at that question. It is as if I asked them to fly their children to the moon or to ensure their child would be accepted to Harvard. I am told it is too much to ask, that the teen would never agree, or that they never thought of that before.

It makes me so sad and I want to tell them all- don’t give up on your children! Don’t turn them loose to the advertising forces that seek to make them debt owing zombies ever in search of more! Protect your child’s future by making them connect to their present and just as importantly-their past! Take them to visit family and insist the technology be left in the car (at least half of the visit). Create traditions or be brave enough to maintain the ones you have!

Remember, lowering expectations or reducing demands sends the signal that you do not believe your child can handle the demands on them. What is the message to their developing and fragile self-esteem if you do that? If you don’t continue setting the standard that 45 minutes at dinnertime is reserved for family only, what are you saying about how much you value them? Forget that you see them whining every night about coming to the table. THAT IS THEIR JOB! They are destined to test your limits as teens stretching out the tendrils of independence to see what sticks and what they can grab.

TEACHING THEM THAT FAMILY COMES FIRST IS YOUR JOB! I hear so many parents complain about the disrespect they get from their children. But there is no time spent connecting, no recreational time shared, and the teens are constantly connected to the world outside of their home when the phones, tablets and computers are always on, so how are they supposed to KNOW how to connect with you. Teaching them to connect is YOUR JOB! You have to model it, commit to it, and demonstrate how fun it can be! You cannot wait for your teenager to do it for you. Think back to your teen years and ask yourself- did I ask my parents for more time with them as a teen? Then get up, turn off the TV or your phone, forget your work email or Facebook status for the night, and have pizza and watch that zombie show your teen loves. You never know, you just might like the show- but more importantly you are demonstrating how much you like your teen!