When it is time to unplug…

Posted: March 24, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Feverishly tapping on the keyboard, opening and closing windows, internet sites, annotating and recording important attractions, restaurants and hotels for our upcoming vacation,  I realize I have been engrossed in planning for about 3 hours. The two older children are watching TV mindlessly and the youngest is playing dress up in my closet. It reminds me of a study I read about in the journal Pediatrics about caregivers being absorbed in mobile devices while interaction with the child(ren) declined. Although this study was conducted in fast food restaurants, I am hyper sensitive to my usage and level of distraction with my own children. I realize I am asking, “what?” when I’m connected forcing them to ask me the same question one to three more times while I try to multi-task- FAILURE. We have all seen the research on multitasking but for some reason I still live in the land of denial.

I am finding the balance of being connected and unplugging difficult. I try hard to put the phone away when I get home from work and open the computer only when the kids go to bed; however, I am pulled to the iPad when my parents want to Facetime, or when I want the kids to look up an answer for homework. I think this debate over blaming technology for disengagement is tricky. I can not deny that being connected has caused me to disengaged at times when I should have been present, but technology also has afforded me opportunities to connect inter-personally when otherwise would have been impossible. Top 3 examples how technology has enhanced or afforded interpersonal relationships-

1. My grandfather lives in Florida and he is a 96 year old WWII veteran. Although he can not get around that well, I have fond memories of him visiting everyone of his 20+ grandchildren and great grandchildren every year in a motor home. This past year, my grandfather friended me on Facebook. He wanted to continue to share in our experiences and interact with all of us. He decided that he needed to meet us where we were and he did. For the last year, he has posted pictures, commented on important events and shared stories. Without technology, this would not have been possible.granpa

2. Facetime: Family is very important to us. Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of family in Cadillac, so we use Facetime to stay connected. All of the kids love this feature and know how to use it. This technology makes what would be phone conversations, a vehicle for all kinds of interaction. We dance, sing, play games, watch sporting events, concerts and much more. It allows distant family and friends the opportunity to be a part of special moments and for us to enjoy those moments with them.

3. Professionally I feel very fortunate to be building a strong Personal Learning Network (PLN) that inspires, supports and pushes me to be a better leader and person. Education can be a very isolating job- shut the door and do your thing. Although collaboration and teaming are encouraged, it is difficult to find the time and the right people. I found that Twitter has provided the learning environment that works for me. I can get great ideas and positive feedback from hundreds of people in a few clicks. I still very much prefer a great one on one conversation with a colleague, but sometimes that just is not practical.

I am sure there are many more examples of how technology supporting interpersonal relationships. I realize there are concerns about being connected and I share many of those concerns, but if used with intention, I believe it can be a powerful tool in establishing and enhancing great relationships. There is a balance and I will continue to work at striking it daily.

  1. As an Instructional Technology Specialist who also happens to be tech-junkie, I completely see your dilemma. My wife and I routinely engage in this same conversation, and as a result, I am constantly self-checking my screentime habits. It is a fine line to walk, because I truly believe that there are numerous benefits from technology, but like with most things, I suppose moderation is the answer. Our children are growing up in a constantly connected society, and it is imperative that we teach them- while we learn- how to exist both in the here and now and the virtual world.

    I often wonder if in twenty years there will be studies conducted on the effects of this constant connectivity, akin to the smoking studies of yesteryear. I guess time will tell, but until then, I will still attempt to balance my screentime with actual facetime!

    Thanks for writing this timely post!

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