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TTYL: Talk to You Later

TTYL: Talk to You Later

Connecting with spouses and children in a world gone texting.


While driving the other night, I noticed a couple in the distance. They were taking a relaxing evening stroll. How great that this couple took the time and decided to enjoy each other’s company, I thought to myself. Then as I drove by, I noticed that both of them were on their BlackBerries, texting away.

Today we live next to each other, but reside in our very own world.

There have been countless articles discussing the impact of cell phones and texting on our children’s lives. Concerned parents attend workshops where we are taught how to monitor access to the internet and movies on our kids’ phones. There are worries about compromising pictures that are sent, and the effect of constant texting.

I believe we need to be just as concerned about the family environment we’re creating as we parents become addicted to our phones and BlackBerries.

How often do we pick up our children at school holding our phones in one hand and greeting our children with a distracted hello as we finish our conversation? “Just one more minute,” we motion, with a cautionary finger pointed in the air.

If we are so fortunate to have children who want to tell us about their day, how can we blow it by texting and talking to those who are not even with us?

How many times do we go to a restaurant and believe that we’re spending great family time? But if you look closely, you'll find parents and children alike with their eyes engrossed as they stare downward. Each individual is looking at their screen texting others while ignoring the family that sits right beside them.

Unknowingly, we have built invisible barriers that obstruct our connecting with the ones we are supposed to love most.

Jealousy, hurt and competition are common in many homes as children and spouses vie for attention that is being given to technology instead.

The New York Times recently reported on a study by Sherry Turkle who has been observing the effects of technology on parents and children for the past five years. She has found that feelings of jealousy, hurt and competition are common in many homes as children and spouses vie for attention that is being given to technology instead.

Children spoke about feeling hurt at mealtime, sports events or pickup time when they found parents more interested in their phones than in them.

“There’s something so engrossing about the kind of interactions people do with screens that they wall out the world,” she said. “I’ve talked to children who try to get their parents to stop texting while driving and they got resistance, ‘Oh, just one, just one more quick one, honey.’ It’s like ‘one more drink.’”

A parent I know was taking a summer hike with his wife and children in the mountains of Vermont. The scenery was breathtaking, the air delicious. The father’s phone unbelievably had service despite the high altitude. Every few minutes his office was calling. He was walking while looking at his BlackBerry which constantly buzzed with another email message. Finally, his six-year-old daughter called out to him.

“Daddy,” she said, “can I have your phone for a minute?”

“Why?” he asked.

“So that I could throw it down the mountain and have you be a part of the family.”

He turned off his BlackBerry and decided to try and make up for lost time.

“Can We Talk?”

Talking to our spouses and children is more than having a conversation. We are demonstrating to our families that we are interested in their lives and care about their words. When we look at our wife instead of our BlackBerry, we are showing that we are not bored or apathetic to her. If a wife greets her husband as he comes through the door at the end of the day with a halfhearted welcome as she is busily finishing her latest text, what is a husband to feel?

If this is the effect on marriages and spousal relationships, imagine the effect that we are having on our children!

Young children need verbal interactions with parents in order to learn about the world and develop their vocabulary. They come to feel secure knowing that their parents are tuned in to their concerns and questions.

Older children need to feel that parents are engaged and attentive to their lives. This is the bedrock of family life, the glue that holds us all together. If children feel that we listen with half an ear, they will sadly go elsewhere for attention. They will come to perceive our connection to our ‘technological others’ as an aloofness and lack of caring.

Love and affection is displayed not only through saying ‘I love you,’ but through eye contact, attentiveness, and being able to disentangle oneself from outside distractions.

5 Questions for Every Home

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Husbands: Do you constantly check your cell/BlackBerry after you return from work at the expense of having an uninterrupted conversation with your family?
  2. Wives: Are you on the cell/BlackBerry when your spouse or children come home at the end of the day?
  3. Have you created an environment where spouses and children feel that you are an interested and active listener?
  4. Do you make eye contact with your spouse and children when they speak to you?
  5. Do you generate feelings of belongingness and attachment within your family?

Family is more important today than it has ever been. We have been witness to a breakdown of marriages and parent-child relationships at an alarming rate. Even families that remain intact have parents and children who have stopped speaking to each other as they are constantly engaged with those who are not present. We cannot afford to lose our connection with our children. We need to make our families our priority.

June 26, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Anonymous, July 13, 2010 2:42 AM

so true

This is totally true. The other day a friend told me that her son came up to her and said,we never get to spend time with daddy anymore, hes always on the phone. I personally thought that was heartbreaking how a six year old can realize that. The point is if we get such precious gifts which are our children we should show them how we care about them. People avoid others because of texting. This is such a true article which everyone can learn from.

(10) SusanE, July 7, 2010 4:57 PM

I've drawn the line.

Several of my friends don't have cell phones. They can't be bothered to carry them around. They live, eat, breathe, work, play and keep in touch with each other. I have several friends who have cells and droids and blackberries and they use them every few minutes, checking, texting, talking and searching...... they use them during entertainment, during dinner, driving, at work, and at leasure. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Guess which friends are most interesting and most fun? Guess which are brightest and original? Guess which have the enviable jobs? Guess which ones have kids who are plugged into daily life? It's the adult friends who are Not 'plugged in'. commoncents.

(9) S, June 30, 2010 2:16 PM

Er, husbands and wives??

I work. So does my husband. As far as I can tell, so does the author of this article. SO WHY THE NEED FOR DIFFERENT COMMENTS DIRECTED AT THE HUSBANDS AND WIVES?? Other than that, the article is well-written and makes a good point.

(8) sharona, June 30, 2010 7:36 AM

bring back communication in person...

quality time so important, we should make the most of it instead of using gagets. Communication face to face is much better than texting. We need to do this again inorder to have strong relationships with family

(7) Beverly Kurtin, June 29, 2010 5:43 AM

She walked INTO my car

A few months ago a woman paying zero attention to her surroundings was completely unaware that she was about to cross a high speed highway. Her head was down texting. She walked into the side of my van and went flying (Baruch Hashem) backward sustaining some pretty nasty injuries. When the police got there she screamed over and over that I ran her over. Thankfully, three cars saw what happened and stuck around to tell the officer what happened. He arrested HER (it is unlawful to walk and text in my part of the world) and off she went to the hospital. My insurance company told her NO when she tried to collect from them. This afternoon I was in my manual wheelchair. All of a sudden I had a man across my lap, my chair went over and I was slightly injured. The offspring of unmarried parents just wiped himself off, NO APOLOGY AT ALL and he started to walk off as though nothing had happened; he was THAT involved in texting. There is something about a disabled 70 year-young woman laying on the floor crying from agony that gets attention. Had he at least apologized I might not have allowed him to be taken to the police station. The store wanted to compensate me but they were not at fault, but when I get through with HIM... I would vote for a law outlawing texting in public. I have free texting on my phone. I have texted 4 times in the 3 years I've owned it, all 4 texts were emergencies. My cell phone is OFF while I am driving; there is no reason to talk and drive. The only accident, praise Gd, I've been in is when an idiot rear ended the car in which I was a passenger. It was for the good because the driver was totally paralyzed the next morning. An exam showed he had a cancerous tumor that was cured. Do we have a fantastic Gd or what?

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