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Families and Technology - Beware the Social Downfall

This is a high-tech world we live in. It was many years ago and still is, but the pace at which it is advancing is staggering. We barely get used to a new gadget or idea and it has evolved into a more complex gadget and we must have it. Our children, our employers, and friends must have it, too. Has all of this been a positive or negative influence on our families?

For all of time distance between relatives, friends and business associates had been a challenge of fulfilling the need to talk face to face as if in the same room and to experience what is going on in their world. Today's advancement in communication has given us several ways to squash that challenge and have control over it. The cell phone, iPods, PDAs, laptops, Smartphones, video phones, and computers provide almost limitless ability to communicate by talking, text messaging, instant video calls, computer use, and access to the internet. We can work and play more efficiently.

What good has all this done for the family? Keeping in touch with children and spouses on cell phones has become a necessity in times of emergencies and needing to know their whereabouts. Many service providers offer lower plans to help keep them connected while offering children their favorite, text messaging. Video phones, Skype on computers, and cell phone video fulfill a need for friends and families, especially in the military, to feel the joy of seeing each other regardless of the distance between them. The social contact and content over the internet is awe-inspiring. Many people have found their true love on an online dating service and started families. The knowledge to be found on the internet is never-ending. I can't remember how I used to find out so much information before. Yes, I'm that old. Parents have a choice to work full-time or part-time at home via the computer or PDA. This can mean lower commute and child care costs. Their employers may be able to restructure their companies to save on expenses. Television events still bring friends and families together. Children enjoy their video games which aids them in keeping up on advancing technology. All of these things aren't expected to go away but just keep progressing.

Quality time for families has given many of us a vast catalog of fond memories. Socializing within the family circle is in jeopardy. Going into our own retreats with our choice of entertainment has alienated the family structure as we've known it. Children demonstrate more bad behavior with the absence of family values and closeness not being constant enough in their lives. The whole family gathering around the dinner table is a source of support, problem solving and a release from the day's trials. It teaches etiquette, empathy and social skills. Even if families manage a dinner together it is too often interrupted with phone calls, text messaging, watching television or listening to an iPod. Dinner time can become a battle trying to put away the distractions of our modern world. Some families still compete with all of this by having family movie or game nights. Some still try to read that bedtime story to their young ones. We have allowed ourselves to become addicted to email, text messaging, and connecting online by ourselves. We are putting our family life on the back burner and not worrying too much that it may get burned.

Some families and parents realize too late the damage being done by our all so busy, modern world of phones and computers. They have difficulty switching to parenting mode and instead passively monitor their children. They may stay at home and work but they work more and their children see it and are affected by it. Children must have attention from their parents to learn to socialize, grasp the commitment for learning, feel security, and to become strong, confident adults. Spouses need personal time together to enrich their relationships. The internet has engulfed many and chat rooms have caused marital problems and divorces. At the pace we are going I fear the breakdown of the social structure of the family which will lead to the decline of the social structure in society itself.

Like it or not advancing technology isn't going away. We need to learn to hold onto our family social structure. We can embrace the positive influences of our changing world and strive to keep the negative influences away. I remember my parents not liking rock and roll music when I was a kid but I like it. Now kids today like rap music but I don't. Each generation to come will accept changes since they grew up with them. I believe there should be a grandparent or watchdog in every family now and in the future to keep the essence of family alive.

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