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Why We Should All Unplug From Technology

Ideas for improving family connections by disconnecting from technology


When you're with your children, does everyone have at least one eye on a screen—computer, tablet, or smartphone? These days, it seems like people have to be on their phone even when they're in a room full of people.

Are you getting the most quality out of your family time?

We spoke recently with Carol Sampson, a licensed clinical social worker whose practice includes children, adolescents and families. She hears a lot about the stress on families from the demands of everyday life; we wondered if all the text messages, emails, voicemails and other distractions were getting in the way of real connection between parents and kids.

“It’s not all bad,” admits Carol, who notes that being able to communicate with children when they are away from home can in fact make parent and child feel more secure.

“When we wanted to communicate with our kids in the past, before smartphones, we could put a note in the back pack, or on the kitchen table,” says Sampson. “Now we can text an encouraging message—‘good luck on your exam!’—or a change in plans—‘I’m going to be five minutes late’—with ease. It’s an important and useful way to connect.”

Other uses of electronics can be more problematic, however. 

“As parents, we are constantly modeling behavior for our children,” says Sampson. “If you’re checking your phone at the dinner table, you can’t get angry if the kids do the same thing.”

She makes the point that, as much as they are useful tools, our phones can make real connection difficult, too.

“When you’re picking up your child from school or another activity, the moment when you greet them is important; they will have things to say, but if you’re glancing at your phone, instead of listening, you’re not fully present. They need to know they come first."

Sampson has advice on other occasions when tuning in to each other, rather than the electronic devices, can make a positive difference in communication and connection.

“Of course, we can’t always be present—things happen—but some things can wait. We shouldn’t be victimized by our gadgets.”

If your children are struggling with homework, that’s a good time to unplug, notes Sampson. “They’ll find it reassuring to feel you’re available if they need your help.”

Don’t forget car trips. Those video monitors for your kids in the back seat can be comforting and keep things peaceful, but they may cause you to miss a good bonding opportunity.

“Kids ask questions, and a lot of communication can happen in the car,” says Carol. “Those games your parents used to play with you—identifying license plates, checking out scenery, singing songs together—can all be the source of great connection and happy memories.”                                                          

Carol Sampson is a licensed clinical social worker with a Fairfield Country practice counseling adults, children, adolescents and families. carolsampsonlcsw.com

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