In my house, we often go out with friends, family, or stay in for a family evening. What do you picture? I know in my mind I think of a Norman Rockwell picture where everyone is sitting around a fire, talking or playing a board game not struggling with a social media addiction in families.
It may be a night where we go on a neighborhood walk and talk about goals, dreams and our day. In reality though, family nights or activities are heavily enveloped with technology. According to a study on media influence, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that kids ages 8-18 years old spent over 7 hours a day using electronic media .
That equals up to 50 hours per week in front of a screen. Numerous research studies show that when children are on their screens they are losing our on interpersonal relationship skills. Screen time can lead to obesity, difficulty focusing, and maintaining relationships .
Effects of Social Media on Relationship
The impact of social media on families has been researched to see what negative and positive effects are happening. Psychologists are increasingly concerned that technology is breaking down family communication.
It can rob families of attention, communication, and a feeling of safety within the family unit. A book by Sherry Turkle, Alone Together, talks about a study conducted where parents and children were asked their opinion about technology .
The results were stunning. Many children reported that they felt their parents were addicted to their phone or computer.
Children stated a desire for their parents to spend quality time and interact with them. This study shows the growth of social media addiction in families and a need for more family social interaction.
Alternatively, technology can be used to keep families connected. It can help members keep track of schedules, location, and a sense of security between members that parents and/or children can be reached immediately if needed.
Technology is also helpful for families of divorce or separation through more immediate voice or face contact.
In a 2008 study published by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, reported that cell phones, email, and texting helped families compensate for the increased stress of modern life by allowing them to communicate with family members when apart .
Negative Interactions Triggered By Social Media
The impact of social media is a powerful one.
Most often technology can bring forth negative interaction, or zero interaction between siblings, couples, or parent-child. It starves the family of learning and modeling with each other social cues, interpersonal relationship skills, communication skills, and bonding.
As humans, we are social by nature and crave bonding within relationships. We may feel that we are connected through social media, but it strips us of our ability to hear and see verbal and nonverbal messages.
Studies have shown that as parents increase screen time, so do children. Screen time in these studies included smartphones, television, computers, and video games. Children mimic what they are taught, and when parents use electronics while sitting at a playground with their children, the children were found to more likely to engage in risky behaviors .
In other family-impact of social media studies, it was found that when a parent arrived home from work and their children were immersed in technology that the parent was greeted 30% of the time, and was ignored 50% of the time. And when children who spent a significant amount of time on social network sites stated they felt less supported by their parents .
Blur of Work and Personal Responsibilities
Parents are more involved on their phones, with work and personal responsibilities blurred. Too often are parents working at home, and spending more time on technology than with children or partners. 70% of women report that cell phones, computers, and/or TV interfere with their relationship a majority of the time .
They also reporte that 40% of the time, partners get distracted by TV during conversation and that 33% of the women stated their partner checks their phone during meal times [6, 7].
Researchers are finding that individuals communicate more often with family and friends due to technology, but the style and type of communication is potentially weaker .
Studies are also finding that kids who spend more time using technology and are in front of a screen, have more difficulty than peers understanding emotion, developing relationships, and may be more dependent on others.
In conclusion, what is the balance?
It is important for interpersonal connection with families.
Kids want to be hugged, listened too, and spend quality time with family members. Kids don’t want to be texted or feel they have to compete with their parents against screen time.
Working to increase quality family time without technology is important. Setting aside family time, such as family meals, game nights, quality time of talking about each other’s day that is free of phones, TV, and computers is a key to learning to interact with each other face-to-face and modeling healthy communication and interpersonal relationships.
About the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.
Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Reviewed and Updated By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 6, 2019.
Published on AddictionHope.com