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Technology and the family has changed so much. Years ago, people actually had to get up to answer the phone, the computer occasionally used to write papers, and the television only had three channels.

Now, people answer the phone everywhere, including the dinner table and the bathroom. While people write papers on computers, they often spend more time on Facebook or the Internet than actually accomplishing something.

And only three channels? Those days are over. On-screen viewing options are virtually limitless.

So how does all this technology impact families?

  • A 2010 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey showed that 1 in 5 American divorces involve Facebook. And, 81 percent of divorce lawyers have reported a spike in cases that use social media for evidence.
  • One pastor even asked his congregants to quit using Facebook. Why? It’s because he saw so many couples experiencing marital problems because of connections to old flames through social media.
  • Research conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) showed that nearly a quarter of teens have communicated with a boyfriend or girlfriend hourly between midnight and 5 a.m. via cell phone or texting. One in 6 communicated 10 or more times an hour through the night.
  • Many experts claim that texting contributes to sleep deprivation because most kids sleep with their phone within reach. It’s hard for them to resist checking the notifications.
  • According to a 2010 Pew Internet study, fully 72% of all teens – or 88% of teen cell phone users — text. Among all teens, their frequent texting has now overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their friends, including face-to-face interactions. For example, teens use texting to enhance friendships, handle a conflict, begin and end romantic relationships and even to mediate difficult conversations.
  • The average person watches four hours of television daily, which equals six months of eight-hour days. 

From family dinners and vacations to date nights and even Christmas morning, families are being slammed from every direction with technology, all in the name of staying connected. But, is staying connected with the outside world as important as staying connected with the people closest to you?

Perhaps one of the best things we can do is truly connect with each other. Families who are engaged with each other actually do better in every area of life.

Consider these questions:

  • Can you establish “no technology” time zones? For example, no cell phones or television at the dinner table – parents included. Maybe teens can leave phones in the kitchen at night and computers in public spaces. Perhaps time limits for social media could be helpful?
  • Would you rather your child participate in family game night or play a game on Xbox alone instead?
  • Is a family meal more constructive than family members eating on their own in front of a screen?
  • When your child applies for a job, will he be able to verbally communicate?

Technology is a lot like money. Families can either learn how to control how much technology invades their world or they can let it control them. Which would you prefer?

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

When Kyle and Kate Jackson were on the dating scene, they didn’t want to meet people in bars or by chance. Since both of them were shy, they knew that even if they met someone they wouldn’t have the guts to ask the person out.

“I used to make fun of people who went online to find a date,” says Kate. “Once I got to the point that regular dating wasn’t successful, I decided to give it a try. For me, it made the whole process so much easier.”

A study published in 2013 by the University of Chicago indicated that 33 percent of couples who married met online. And, a Pew Research study in 2013 revealed that 59 percent of Americans believe that online dating is a good way to meet people.

When Kate and Kyle met online, they initially communicated by email. After sending emails back and forth, Kyle asked for permission to call Kate. They talked by phone for several weeks and when both felt comfortable, they decided to meet in person.

“I went to her house where her roommates were present and then we went out on our date,” says Kyle. “We made sure everyone knew where we were.”

Kate and Kyle met on Valentine’s Day 2008 and dated for a year before getting engaged on Valentine’s Day 2009. They wonder if their paths would have ever crossed without the online dating site.

If you are considering dating online, keeping yourself safe is a concern. These tips from Online Dating Magazine can help you safely navigate the world of online dating:

  • Arrange to meet in a public place. Never allow your date to pick you up from your home, and do not give out your home address. Consider going out with a group or on a double date when you first meet.
  • Go Dutch. This way you won’t feel any obligation to “return” the favor.
  • Realize that alcohol affects your judgment. Not only does it affect your judgment, but alcohol also lessens your inhibitions. Try to avoid alcohol on your first date.
  • Use your own mode of transportation. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you won’t have to rely on your date to get you home.
  • Don’t assume that your date is safe. Never let your guard down on a first date.
  • Avoid secluded areas. Stay in a public place for your first date and avoid secluded areas such as parks.
  • Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, so leave immediately.
  • Always let someone know where you’re going. You might even consider arranging a time to call and check in.
  • Give your cell phone number. It’s safer to give out a cell phone number instead of your landline (if you still have one).
  • Always remain alert. Even if you’re having a blast and the chemistry is great, it’s a good idea to remain alert the whole evening. Make sure you have a cell phone on you.

No matter how you meet, taking your time can help you make wiser choices when it comes to choosing a mate.

Have you ever thought about how today’s amazing technological advances affect relationships?

There are very few places where you can’t technologically connect in some way. You can place calls whenever and wherever. It’s fairly inexpensive and there are no additional fees. In real-time, you can show or tell anyone what you are eating, post your latest fashion escapade or something that just happened. Who would have guessed you can actually conduct business halfway across the planet with someone you may never meet in person?

Why would anybody need to read books anymore or memorize anything when with a few keystrokes the information can be on a screen in front of you? The world has never been so flat when it comes to communicating.

How does all of this technology impact relationships?

What if you get an email from a friend who lives out of town who is really struggling? Inventions like Skype or FaceTime make it feel like you are practically there live and in person, which is good. But does it replace being able to hug someone when things are tough?

Do you remember calling home from college once a week to talk to your parents? It required remembering all that happened during the week before and that also meant there were many things you had to figure out on your own because mom and dad weren’t available at the drop of a hat to give you their best problem-solving maneuver. So—how are young people impacted by constantly being able to be in touch with their parents when life gets challenging versus taking a stab at trying to figure it out for themselves?

Have you ever experienced miscommunication in a text message? For example, take the word “fine.” You text your spouse saying you want to go out to eat tonight. Your spouse replies, “Fine.” There are tons of ways to interpret that word and the person’s intent behind it.

How about boundaries? At first, constant connectivity was super-exciting for everyone. Now people realize that being reachable anywhere and anytime may not be so great. Constant pings at the dinner table can make it challenging to have meaningful conversation with family and friends.

There is a fair amount of chatter these days about how digital devices and other technology have changed thinking and behavior. Is technology overload a thing? Does constantly switching back and forth between incoming text messages, email and the task at hand affect attention span? Has creativity diminished?

And, have we replaced meaningful conversation with friends and family with photos and the snippets of life we see on Facebook?

Ask yourself. How can you enhance your most meaningful relationships if you change or limit the way you currently use technology?

Teens, Technology and Romance

Teen dating in the age of technology isn't always simple.

It’s totally logical for technology to play a role in teen relationships, especially in romance. But how much of a part does it play?

The Pew Research Center examined American teens’ (ages 13-17) digital romantic practices to find out.

Though 57% of teens have digital friendships, teens are less likely to start a romantic relationship online. Most teen daters (76%) say they’ve only dated people they met in person. Only 8% of teens have dated or hooked up with someone they first met on social media. (And most of those introductions are on Facebook.)

Still, teens use technology to flirt and express interest in a potential partner. They also use social media to like, comment, friend or joke around with a crush. 

  • 55% have flirted or talked in person to express interest.
  • 50% have let someone know they were romantically interested by “friending” them on social media.
  • 47% have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting, or otherwise interacting on social media.
  • 46% have shared something funny or interesting with their romantic interest online.
  • 31% flirted through messages.
  • 10% have sent flirty or sexy pictures/videos of themselves.

Overall, 85% of teen daters expect to hear from their significant other once a day. Some teens expect even more.

  • 11% expect to hear from their partner hourly.
  • 35% expect to hear something every few hours.
  • 38% expect to hear from their significant other once a day.

Teens say texting is the top way to “spend time together.”

Additionally, phone calls, in-person time, and other digital means for staying in touch were in the mix. As for spending time with their current/former boyfriend or girlfriend, teen daters preferred:

  • Text messaging: 92%
  • Talking on the phone: 87% 
  • Being together in person: 86%
  • Social media: 70% 
  • Instant or online messaging: 69%
  • Video chatting: 55%
  • Messaging apps: 49%

31% of daters reported that a current or former partner has checked up on them multiple times per day. They use the internet or cellphone to ask where they are, who they are with or what they are doing.

Teens were also asked about potentially controlling and harmful behaviors involving technology in relationships.

  • 15% (or 5% of all teens) say a partner used the internet or text messaging to pressure them into unwanted sexual activity.
  • 16% have had a partner require removing people from their friends list on social media.
  • 13% said their partner demanded they share their email and internet passwords with them.
  • 19% report that a partner used the internet, social media or a cellphone to threaten them.
  • 8% report that a partner used online information against them to harass or embarrass them.
  • After a relationship ends, 22% of teens said a former partner used the internet or a cellphone to bully them. 15% report that a partner used mobile phones or the internet to spread rumors about them.

Technology connects us in many ways, and it can be a handy tool. But many teens need more info to navigate technology and romantic relationships successfully.

Dating is an opportunity to get to know someone, identify common interests, see if your personalities get along and whether you enjoy each other’s company. However, it is different from marriage.

Teens in relationships still need your help when it comes to romance.

They must understand what dating is and how to identify appropriate and inappropriate behavior. You can help them understand that:

  • Posting mean things is unkind.
  • Demanding passwords is not ok.
  • Constantly checking up on a partner is unhealthy.
  • Demanding to know who, what, where, why, and how is controlling, dishonoring, and disrespectful behavior.
  • Texting back and forth is not the same as spending time with someone.

Many teens struggle with all the ups and downs of technology in romance and relationships. The good news is, teaching them how to respect and honor others can make a lasting impact on their love life and their future.

Other blogs:

How to Be An Emotionally Safe Parent

When (and How) Should I Give My Child Cell Phone?

Five Reasons Teen Girls Stop Talking to Their Dads

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

Kids are Losing Sleep

Sleep hygiene impacts all areas of your child's life.

Have you ever checked email or text messages in the middle of the night? If so, chances are good that your kids have been losing sleep to those things, too.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 2014 Poll revealed interesting findings when it comes to families and their sleep patterns.

Of those surveyed:

  • 89% of adults and 75% of children have at least one electronic device in their bedrooms. While a television was the most common device, 45% of parents and 30% of children had a tablet or smartphone with them when they go to bed at night.
  • 26% of parents and 16% of children sent or read emails and text messages after initially dozing off. Technology has become commonplace in the bedroom. However, the duration and quality of sleep appear to suffer when children and adults leave devices on past bedtime.
  • Sleep quality was significantly worse for children who sometimes left the television, tablet/smartphone or music player on at night.
  • Children who leave their devices on get less rest on school nights than other children. Parents estimate it’s a difference of nearly one hour, on average, per night.
  • Parents also view the quality of their child’s sleep negatively if the child leaves electronics on during the night. This holds true even with older children, who are more likely to leave things on. Teens with left-on devices are estimated to get, on average, half an hour less sleep on school nights.

“For children, a good night’s sleep is essential to health, development and performance in school,” says Kristen L. Knutson, a biomedical anthropologist who researches sleep at the University of Chicago. “We found that, when parents take action to protect their children’s sleep, their children sleep better.”

The NSF shares these tips to improve your child’s sack time:

  • Make sleep a healthy priority in your family’s busy schedule. Children ages 6-10 need 10-11 hours of shuteye. Older children need 8.5-9.5 hours.
  • Set appropriate and consistent bedtimes for your entire family.
  • Know how your child is using electronics in the bedroom. Create a plan for appropriate use at night and set boundaries about use before and after bedtime.
  • Educate your family on how light from electronic device screens can interfere with winding down.
  • Talk to your child about the importance of sleep for health and well-being.
  • Create a snooze-supportive bedroom and home environment, dimming the lights prior to bedtime and controlling the temperature; in most cases, temperatures above 75 degrees and below 54 degrees will disrupt your rest.
  • Encourage activities such as reading or listening to music before bedtime. These are more relaxing than watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Web.
  • Make sure children’s activities, including homework, can be completed without interfering with bedtimes.

When it comes to technology, kids are following their parent’s lead.

“Parents need to be good role models in their responsible use of electronics and their children will follow suit,” says Monique K. LeBourgeois, a psychologist who researches sleep at University of Colorado Boulder.

It may be hard to resist, but setting the tone for a good night’s rest can lead to a happier, healthier home.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV!

Think back to summers when you were a kid. You might recall getting up, doing a few chores and then heading outside to play, only taking a break for lunch. Your mom or dad’s call for dinner was probably met with complaints about coming inside.

In an informal survey of adults about their childhood summer memories, people recalled catching fireflies, climbing trees, fishing and playing outside with friends. They also mentioned riding bikes, running through the sprinkler and lots of other activities. As they thought about their response, they usually smiled and laughed as the memories replayed in their mind.

Times have changed.

Instead of spending time playing outside, various studies indicate many children will get up and Schead straight to some type of screen. In fact, 8 to 10-year-olds spend on average between five and seven hours playing games, watching movies or television. For teens, this number increases. This is a stark contrast to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation that children 10 and older spend no more than two hours a day watching a screen.

Too much screen time can increase a child’s risk of having trouble sleeping at night, experiencing attention issues and developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that children eat more unhealthy food while watching screens, which can lead to weight gain.

While many parents grow weary, the battle between choosing screen time or memories is definitely one worth fighting.

When children move away from screens and interact with others, it helps them develop communication skills. They also learn how to get along with others and problem-solve when there is disagreement over a kickball game score. Play helps build a child’s imagination and enhances their ability to entertain themselves.

So, here’s a challenge: Unplug from the screens and encourage your kids to spend their time in other ways.

Initially, you will undoubtedly get the usual push-back, but stand your ground. Know that you are setting the stage for your children to create some great memories. If they say they are bored, offer them some ways to work around the house. They’ll probably find something to do in order to avoid chores – and it teaches your child to entertain themselves.

The AAP actually says that doing nothing at all is better than staring at a screen.

For example, car rides without DVDs allow a child to look at their surroundings and let their imagination run wild.

While unplugging might not be the most convenient thing to do, see it as intentional preparation for launching your child. Moving away from screens gives them the chance to learn the necessary skills to help them navigate through life. Who’s up for the challenge?

Other blogs:

Does My Teen Need Screen Time Limits?

Why You Need Screen Time Limits, Too (Not Just Your Kids!)

3 Reasons to Let Your Child Have More Screen Time

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV!

How Technology Affects Families

Connecting with each other doesn't require a device.

Do you remember when the only TV at home was in the family room? Or when your family looked for license plates from all 50 states when you were traveling? Now, just about everybody has their own personal device. Each person listens to different music in the car. Homes have several screens and family members rarely watch the same shows together. Technology is everywhere. Technology affects families, without a doubt.

In the last 50 years, technology has exploded. It’s no longer in one place with limits and parental supervision. It’s portable and unlimited. And it’s very hard to control.

So, we’ve got a lot to think about when it comes to how technology affects families. Consider these two questions from author and clinical counselor, John Van Epp:

  • To what extent will families allow technology to be fused with their relationships?
  • Are families unplugging devices to really plug into each other?

Studies suggest that families aren’t doing a great job of connecting.

Consider these examples of technology’s impact on families.

One group from Boston Medical Center watched family interactions in fast-food restaurants. Out of 55 families, 40 parents were doing something with their phones while they were with their children. The researchers call this “absorption with the mobile device.” When a child tried to get a parent’s attention, they got in trouble for interrupting the parent.

UCLA anthropologist Elinor Ochs also conducted an intensive in-home study on this issue. Ochs found a primary theme in these homes: multi-tasking among family members. She cites a common conversation between parent and child: “My parents always tell me that I can’t do homework while listening to music. But they don’t understand that it helps me to concentrate.”

According to David Myers, the director of the University of Michigan’s Brain Cognition Lab, the brain DOES NOT multi-task and students are NOT great multi-taskers. “The bottom line is you CANNOT simultaneously be thinking about your tax return and reading an essay,” he says. The brain may act in parallel functions (touch, sound, vision). But when engaging in different tasks, the brain operates like a toggle switch—jumping from one thing to another.

“This constant multi-tasking that people are doing results in dopamine ‘squirts.’ These lead to an addiction to constant techno-activity,” Van Epp says. “Yet, studies show that downtime for the brain is essential to the development of identity, morals, empathy and creativity.”

Here’s a challenge from Van Epp: Lay your smart phone down. See if you can go for an hour without picking it up.

“Research shows that technology is actually producing higher rates of anxiety among children and adults,” Van Epp says. “Apps are influencing child development and short-circuiting identity formation. They’re also discouraging face-to-face interactions and creating superficial intimacy.”

If you still aren’t convinced this is an issue, check out Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain. Then watch Gary Turk’s Look Up video on YouTube. 

“We must begin balancing technology and real time with loved ones,” Van Epp says. “We can’t let technology define us. Advances in technology can never replace gains in family interactions.”

So, what about you? Will your family unplug devices so you can really connect with each other?

For more resources, see our Parenting and Families page here.

Image from Unsplash.com

Technology, such as the Internet, smartphones, and social media, can have great benefits in helping your children form and maintain relationships. At the same time, if not used with limits and guidance by your children, such use may prevent them from developing the essential relationship qualities and skills that have allowed us to make real connections and build real relationships for ages.

There is certainly a place for children to have online relationships, but they are no substitute for the depth and breadth of flesh-and-blood relationships where your children are able to fully connect with other people and completely experience the meaning, satisfaction, and joy of deep human relationships.

Yes, children’s (and adults’) real relationships can be untidy, with hurt feelings, anger, frustration, and disappointment. But relationships are like two sides of the same coin; children can’t experience the beauty of relationships—love, comfort, and excitement—without also being willing to accept its occasional blood, sweat, and tears. I challenge anyone who can show me that online relationships can provide that.

To raise children capable of having healthy relationships in this world that is so dominated by popular culture and technology, you must be well informed and deliberate about your children’s exposure to both. Of course, the most basic way to prevent popular culture and technology from having an undue and unhealthy influence over your children’s relationships is to set limits on their exposure. You should establish clear expectations about the quality of the popular culture that your children are allowed to experience and the type and quantity of technology they are permitted to use. Just as importantly, you must create appropriate consequences to add “bite” to the expectations you set in the event of inevitable transgressions on the part of your children.

Another obvious preventive measure is to educate your children about the messages they’re getting from popular culture and technology. The more informed your children are about those messages, the less vulnerable they will be to those messages. As they get older, they will be able to make deliberate choices about what aspects of popular culture they expose themselves to and what technology they use.

Part of this education involves talking to your children about the unrealistic messages that popular culture conveys to them about relationships, for example, that love can be found in a matter of weeks (think The Bachelor) or that physical appearance is a healthy foundation for relationships (think Gossip Girls). You can also show them the differences between online and offline relationships, particularly what is missing from the former and present in the latter, for example, facial expressions, body language, and other nonverbal cues (notwithstanding Skype and other video chatting), voice inflection (notwithstanding phone calls), touch, and smell.

So, you can’t just play defense against popular culture and technology. In fact, to raise children who are capable of healthy relationships in this digital age, teaching your children about healthy relationships may be your most important way to help them resist the unhealthy messages from popular culture and technology and ensure that they are capable of developing healthy relationships.

A good place to start in teaching your children about healthy relationships is in your relationship with your spouse. Let me say this clearly. There is no greater influence on how your children come to see relationships than your relationship with your “other half.” From a very early age, your relationship—good, bad, or ugly—likely becomes the template on which their future relationships are based. If you can show your children from an early age how a healthy relationship works, filled with respect, caring, and empathy, simply through your daily relationship with your spouse, you will instill in them a positive view of relationships that will be resistant to those that they receive from popular culture (this, of course, is more of a challenge for divorced couples or single parents).

Also, when you model the healthy use of technology as a tool for strengthening relationships, you provide your children with another template that will encourage the dominance of offline relationships, teach them how to use technology to foster healthy relationships, and make them less vulnerable to the allure of online relationships.

The most powerful way to override the inevitable messages your children will receive from popular culture and technology about relationships is to give your children the most quantity and quality of unmediated (meaning direct) social experiences on which they can build the competence, confidence, and comfort to develop healthy relationships throughout their lives. These encounters can include the spectrum of relationships including family, friends, educational, athletic, cultural, and spiritual.

This depth and breadth of flesh-and-blood relationships will also give your children the ability to compare those relationships and online relationships and, hopefully, see that the latter can’t hold a candle to the former. The more ways in which your children can experience the richness of offline relationships, the more they will come to value them and not be drawn to those gained through popular culture and technology.

In addition to maximizing your children’s in-the-moment appreciation for face-to-face relationships, you can also actively teach them essential relationship skills. Early exposure to social skills and the basics of relationships, for example, saying hello and goodbye and please and thank you, shaking hands, and looking others in the eye, as well as compassion and concern for others, will prevent your children from avoiding real relationships due to doubt, shyness, or social discomfort and give them the competence and confidence to want to explore further unmediated relationships.

You want to give your children direct experience in relationships and the tools to build self-assurance in your children’s relationship capabilities. You also want to instill in them a skeptical attitude toward the messages they get about relationships from popular culture and technology.

When you accomplish these goals, you give your children a true gift, namely, they will see for themselves that real-life relationships are far more rewarding than those found online and they will make sure these relationships take precedence over the virtual kind. And that is a gift that will keep on giving throughout their lives. 

Article written by: Jim Taylor, Ph.D.

Author of: Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Child for a Media-fueled World; Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Children; Your Children are Under Attack: How Popular Culture is Destroying Your Kids’ Values, and How You Can Protect Them; Your Children are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear From You; and more!

Taylor speaks regularly to schools, youth-sports programs and performing-arts organizations around the country.

Taylor received his Bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College. He earned his Master’s degree and Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Colorado. He is a former Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at Nova University in Ft. Lauderdale. Jim is currently an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco and the Wright Institute in Berkeley.

He writes articles in scholarly and popular publications, and he gives workshops and presentations around the world. Additionally, Taylor blogs on a variety of topics, including on his own website, drjimtaylor.com. He also appears as a guest on various internationally-known media outlets.