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The Impact of Screen Time on Families and Relationships

It’s no secret we’ve entered a completely new era in terms of technology. Twenty years ago, there were no iPhones, there was dial up internet and the only social media site was Myspace. In 2020, family and relationship dynamics are very different due to the development of new technology and therefore new communication patterns. How often do we go out to dinner and spend at least part of the meal on our phones? If you were to look up would you see other people in conversations or would you see kids staring at iPads while their parents scroll on their phones. There is no right or wrong way to maneuver this new age of technology, however, most couples who seek help/support at least mention the role technology plays in their interactions. This is even more common in families with teenagers and toddlers.

To make the most of time with your family or significant other, it’s important to take a serious look at the role social media, texting, and browsing has on your interactions. Individuals have been shown to have less developed interpersonal skills if growing up with technology than if they were forced to speak face-to-face or over the phone. If someone were to record your family time, what would it consist of? If the answer is likely sitting on the couch, watching tv, scrolling on your phones, you may find the tips listed below very beneficial. In an article written by Don and Carrie Cole on The Gottman Institute, suggestions are provided to change the dynamic of interactions to be more positive and constructive.

As a child, I remember thinking family meetings were silly and a waste of time. However, this is an excellent way to ensure everyone’s feelings and opinions are heard before making important decisions. In terms of technology, each week coming together to determine a screen time limit that feels good for all members of the family can be very useful. When people, children and adults alike, feel like their thoughts were taken into consideration, they are much more likely to follow through on the compromise. Family meetings allow everyone to have a voice and weigh in on the conversation.

While the topic of screen time can feel complicated, certain decisions can be very simple. For example, growing up, phones were never allowed at the dinner table. That meant whenever we’d have a family dinner phones would have to disappear. Simple decisions like these can have a big impact.

Making an effort to plan activities can prevent falling back into old patterns of family movie nights on the couch with everyone on their phones. While this sounds ideal for some nights, incorporating interactive activities throughout the week that everyone can enjoy will ensure there’s time for interpersonal connections as well as social media.

Inevitably, we will continue to spend time on our phones each day. Screen time does not always have to be a bad thing and can be utilized to further foster connections. Texting loved ones throughout the day or sharing memes or articles is a great way to maintain connection while not physically being together.

When limits are put on things individuals enjoy it can easily lead to conflict. It may take multiple tries to find a compromise around technology that feels good for everyone in the family. Approaching the conversation with kindness is important in making progress toward the collective goal. If your child is upset when the time limit is reached, it’s important to validate their feelings and encourage them to bring up their thoughts in the next family meeting. Making sure your child knows you hear them does not mean you have to back down.

Whether we like it or not it seems the use of technology is increasing and isn’t going away anytime soon. Because of this, it’s important to find ways to utilize technology to improve your relationship/family life.

If you’ve found yourself struggling with interpersonal relationships or the negative effects of screen time, it may be useful to speak with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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