Use of Personal Devices Linked to Distant Family Relationships
More than 60% of teens live in households without a landline, compared to 30% just a decade ago, according to the National Health Interview Survey. The number of teens with smartphones has also doubled in the same period of time, with around 90% of teens relying on their personal devices for communication. Recently, the Atlantic referred to the loss of the landline as the loss of shared social space among families. This shift in technology towards personal devices has led to more distance in family relationships.
How Has This Changed Family Relationships?
“Home is where you could be reached, and where you needed to go to pick up your messages,” describes Luke Fernandez, co-author of Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid: Feelings About Technology, From the Telegraph to Twitter.“With smartphones, we have gained mobility and privacy. But the value of the home has been diminished, as has its capacity to guide and monitor family behavior and perhaps bind families more closely together.”
Some ways personal devices have affected teen’s home life include:
- Increased Privacy. In houses that still use a landline, you never know who is going to pick up when you call or if any of your other family members are secretly on a different line listening to your conversation while muted. While phone calls from a home phone take place in public spaces, teens’ text messages are easier to keep private and they can take conversations on the go.
- Poorer communication skills. When teens call their friends’ landlines, they are more likely to speak to their friends’ parents first, and if they pick up, they are forced to carry on a conversation with whatever random person is on the other end of the phone before passing it off to the correct family member. This teaches teens how to talk to a variety of people and pick up on nonverbal communication cues.
- Less involvement in family members’ lives. Between overhearing phone calls and acting as a human voicemail machine for other family members, it is easier for family members to keep up with what is going on in each other’s lives. While family members today may have a group text message full of family updates, exchanges are much more concise than they would be in person. Additionally, parents often don’t know who their child talks to on a regular basis–and they are much less likely to ever get to know the parents of their child’s friends.
How Do Personal Devices Influence Social Isolation?
“I believe the overuse of personal devices plays at least a partial role in the uptick in depression and anxiety in society today,” explains Equinox RTC’s clinical director, Dan Keith. “It may not be the cause, but teens deeply need face-to-face social connection and good sleeping habits—both of which can be negatively impacted by overuse of screens. Teens who are struggling with depression or anxiety are also more likely to use their personal devices as an escape, which can unintentionally exacerbate their emotional challenges.”
Many parents are just as guilty as their kids are of using Hands-Free Bluetooth to make calls during carpool, chuckling to themselves over social media posts at dinner, or composing texts in the middle of other conversations.
As a result, families are spending less time together without the distraction of personal devices and are more likely to report feeling emotionally disconnected from each other.
How Can Family Therapy Help?
Family therapy can be a useful way to for families to talk about how personal devices get in the way of spending quality family time together. This might look like pointing out how one feels about using phones when trying to have a face-to-face conversation or wishing your son approached you with questions more than he asks Siri or Google. While the issue may seem like screen time or internet addiction, most family members share similar values for trust, communication, and support in relationships that can be compromised when personal devices are prioritized over open conversations.
Our therapists recognize that it can be difficult to talk to your teen about how technology has changed your family’s communication style, but have seen the powerful impact that it can have on family relationships.
Equinox RTC Can Help
Equinox is a residential treatment center that helps boys ages 14-18 who struggle with depression, anxiety, social skills, trauma, and addictive behaviors. Equinox offers a unique treatment program designed to fit each individual’s specific needs. This treatment center has a supportive environment that helps students heal from the inside-out. Students develop a healthy sense of social and emotional awareness and learn how to incorporate good habits into their daily lives.
Contact us at 877-279-8925 for more information about how internet addiction affects families. We can help your family today!