Technology and Family - Creeping Screens: How Technology Threatens Family LifeEvery Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s column is about how technology threatens family life.

When my babies were first born I was home with them full-time. And babies don’t talk. They may cry, but conversation isn’t their strong point.

And so it was that I turned to television. Every day, from 1-5, my TV was on non-step. First it was three soap operas in a row: Days of Our LivesAll My ChildrenGeneral Hospital. Then, at four, came Oprah. In fact, my TV was on constantly, so that I could hear some voices in my house (and not just in my head).

However, I began to notice that I was rather melancholy when bedtime came around. Every Thursday night I would wander into my bedroom forlorn. Keith would try to talk me out of my mood, which is never a good idea, because we women like having our moods.

And one Thursday, while I was obsessing about my inconsiderate husband, the lightbulb went off. I realized that I was always melancholy on Thursdays because that was the night I watched ER. What a depressing show! Every week someone died in a car accident, or some child was horrendously abused, or someone lost a limb. It was terrible.

I didn’t want to live consumed with the ugliness or life, so we got rid of our television, cold turkey. I became much happier. I had more time with my girls. I sought out friends for conversation. Life grew bigger.

Last week I was at a bloggers’ conference, and this topic came up. I know a bloggers’ conference sounds insane, but I actually get quite a bit of traffic to my blog (I mostly talk marriage and relationships), and I wanted to network with some of the women that I know online. One of those women was a younger blogger who was trying to balance her online community with raising two small children. She asked me what I thought about all of these young moms blogging. Are they ignoring their kids?

I replied that I was thankful blogging wasn’t around when my children were young, or I would have been sucked in and it would have taken too much of my time, just like it has now.

And at that moment I had another epiphany, just like the one I had that Thursday night fifteen years ago. For the last decade and a half I have been so proud of myself for being able to give up television. I realized, though, that over the last few years I have simply traded one vice for another. Yes, I have gotten rid of the TV. But blogs, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Pinterest have eaten up just as much time—if not more.

Technology creeps. We spend so much time in front of screens that we ignore those we love. Men play on video games until the wee hours of the morning, leaving wives wondering if their husbands still have libidos. Women spend so much time talking to pseudo-friends on Facebook that their real live families feel ignored.  And teens create communities on their computers, not in their living rooms.

I can’t quit the online world cold turkey because it’s my job. So my only recourse, over the last few years, has been to head outdoors. When our family needs to connect, we go walking or hiking or biking or birding or camping. We get out, where the computer can’t touch us.

unwired mom - Creeping Screens: How Technology Threatens Family LifeYet I see another threat on the horizon. Currently I have a Blackberry, and I’ve always found it a little cumbersome to check things online. But I’m due for another free phone upgrade, and I’ve been tempted towards an iPhone. I think, though, that I may say no. I don’t want technology to follow me even when I’m walking and hiking and birding and camping. I still need time just with my family. I hope this time I can keep my resolve.

Feel like technology is taking over your life and keeping you from being an effective mom? Sarah Mae has an awesome book out called The Unwired Mom which can help you draw boundaries–and be there for your kids.

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