For my parents' generation, the enemies that were rotting our brains and transforming us into gibbering simpletons were telephones and television.
Today, it's iPhones and Facebook. But we all know that for every study that claims technology is shredding the social fabric, there's another that says tech tools enhance our ability to make and maintain connections.
This is definitely the case for our family. Thanks to high-speed Internet access, my wife and I were able to move 3,000 miles from our big-city jobs to a small town where we could spend more quality time with our kids and far fewer hours at the office. Technology is what allows my wife to work from home as a freelance writer (including as a tech columnist for Family Circle) while making sure our sixth grader puts down the cell phone long enough to finish her homework. And if on some days we text or Skype each other more than we talk, at least we are exchanging ideas—and generally staying on the same wavelength.
The fact is, tech both isolates and connects modern families. It can give the false illusion of friendship, but it also provides access to social circles far beyond the confines of our schools, churches, offices and neighborhoods.
As parents, we know there need to be limits. And it's up to us to enforce them. Which is why in a few weeks our family will hike to the top of a 6,600 foot peak in the Great Smoky Mountains. We'll be staying at a lodge where there is no cell phone reception, no Internet, not even electricity. For three days we'll have just trees, air, kerosene lamps and food brought up the mountain on the backs of llamas. It will be the longest we all have been unplugged since, well, possibly ever.
Will we survive? It's unclear. But if we do, we'll be sure to put it all on Facebook.Four Ways to Keep Tech from Taking Over Family Life
Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.