As technology becomes more affordable, it is common to see a family gathered in the front room, sitting on the couch– faces individually absorbed in their own private laptop screen.
The scene reveals a great irony: as our society becomes more connected online, we are becoming less connected offline.
A 2008 study by the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California found that at the time, 28% of the participants reported less time with household members. In 2006, only 11% percent reported less time. The study also found that while people reported spending about 26 hours per month with families in the first half of the decade, by 2008, that amount had dropped to 18 hours.1
The study exposes a unique facet of the online dilemma: the Internet especially monopolizes individual attention. It is hard for families to share a collective online experience. This is different than watching a movie or television show together.
Michael Gilbert (Senior Fellow) points out:
"[T]he Internet is so engrossing, and demands so much more attention than other technologies, that it can disrupt personal boundaries in ways other technologies wouldn’t have."
While the Internet connects family and friends who may live far away, do not sacrifice online time for real and authentic offline experiences with those you love the most, and those who live the closest to you.
Discuss and establish family guidelines for connected technology. Model for your children healthy online/offline time balance.
1 Ortutay, Barbara (2009, June 15). Family time eroding as Internet use soars: More people also worry about amount of time kids and teens spend online. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31373702/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/