At a recent workshop in St Louis with teachers and Educators I asked participants, “How do you think technology has changed this generation?” One of the attendees mentioned that teens seem more and more tethered to their devices and the people the communicate with—their friends and parents.
I wanted to write an article on how digital tethering effects our family relationships and what we can do about it:
1) Digital Tethering to Our Devices
Have you ever asked (or demanded) a teenager to turn off their cell phone or not check their Facebook for a whole day? They look at you like you asked them to cut off their right hand for the day. My teens and I joke that their iPhones should be called “iPrecious” instead because they obsess over them like Golum in Lord of the Rings. Teens feel a connection to their phones, computers and devices and are digitally ‘tethered’ to them always feeling a compulsion to check them and have them nearby. So much so that it effects teens abilities to unplug and relax on vacations, focus in school and spend ‘off-time’ not in front of a screen.
2) Digital Tethering in Our Romantic Relationships
It is actually easy to smother someone without even realizing it in today’s romantic relationships. We can text, message, Facebook stalk, call, IM, BBIM, email or ping. I have often written about teens need to constantly be connected and abuse often stems from people needing to be connected to another more frequently. Smothering via technology is so much easier in a digital age.
3) Digital Tethering to Parents
In my workshop in St Louis, one of the educators mentioned that in her school kids are constantly on their prohibited cell phones and when asked they claim that they are speaking with parents. Many parents, even though they know their child is in school text and/or call their kids during the school day. This is a new kind of digital tethering I am seeing (for better or worse) where parents need constant check-ins and updates from kids during the school day or when they are out with friends.
4) Digital Tethering to Friends
Of course, kids and teens are digitally tethered to their friends. I call this “FOMO” or fear of missing out. Many young people feel the constant need to check in with their friends on their devices or to see what is happening on their social networks. Even when teens want a break from technology they will mindlessly check and spend hours checking in with friends.
I think it is important for parents to help teens and kids be less tethered to their devices and through their devices to the people in their life. We can do this by having more ‘off-time’ in the home and getting kids used to saying that they have to unplug for a little bit (they will often realize that even though this is scary, they do not miss much anyways). We also need to talk to our kids about relationship smothering.
How it is important to take breaks in our relationships and distance can really make the heart grow fonder (even if it is just turning off the phone at night).