How Does Technology Affect Family Communication?

Mother on laptop computer, father on cell phone and baby sitting on floor
Mother, father, and baby using technology. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Technology in today’s world offers a plethora of ways to communicate effectively so that every member of a family can keep in touch. From text messaging, Skype, webcams, Facebook, Twitter and emails, the facilitation of communication has never been more available. However, there are times when the one-on-one communication between human beings falls through the cracks and technology can take control over a family.

TV

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Television is one mode of technology that can prevent a family from communicating. With the advent of Tevo and myriad 24-hours-a-day program availability, the family can literally sit for hours without speaking a word to each other. According to the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension Publications, parents can be proactive in reining in television watching. They can limit the amount of time a child watches television and, to encourage language skills, parents can participate by discussing the program the children have just watched and analyzing the advertisements.

Online Networks

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Social interactive online networking such as Facebook and MySpace has changed the way families communicate. A study done at Indiana University asked parents for their opinions on these technologies. Some parents stated that a socially isolated child may become more socially isolated because all of her networks are through the computer. However, other parents believed the Internet could help a potentially depressive child.

Online and Offline Interaction

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Parents can take control of this situation by joining Facebook with their child so that they can monitor who their child is talking to. Researchers have found that even though IMing and text messaging and Facebooking are fun, fast-paced tools that young people love, most of their serious conversations still take place offline.

Concerns

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Dr. Jeffrey S. McQuillen, assistant professor of speech communication at Texas A&M University, warns that the influence of technology can be a hindrance to interpersonal relationships. To McQuillen, the advent of the Internet has made the world smaller in terms of global interaction, but wider in terms of one-on-one relationships. He believes the more children are left to themselves and the Internet, the less likely we are to see familial interdependence. He believes companies that produce all of these technologies are making virtual interaction synonymous with face-to-face interaction. He believes this can be disastrous for family life.

Prevention/Solution

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Technology is not going to suddenly disappear, nor is the family. The family unit, like technology, is constantly changing. In the end, it is the role of the parent or primary caregiver to moderate how much technology is allowed to permeate the core of family communication. Family communication will not be adversely affected by technology if it is monitored and controlled.

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