Are Smartphones Interfering In Your Family’s Relationships?

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A Note From the LA Teen Therapist & Life Coach

Have your family members gotten in the habit of paying more attention to their smartphone–than to each other? – Sandra

The human powers of attention are turning out to be no match for the promise of “instant access to everyone and everything” through our mobile devices, reports Hara Estroff Marano, Editor-at-Large at Psychology Today. She goes on to discuss how “networked mobile technology, while expanding our cultural and social worlds, is crushing our private one.”

As a parent, how often are you noticing face-to-face conversations with your teen being derailed by your, or your teen’s, phone alerts? Family researcher Brandon McDaniel has labeled this new phenomenon “Technoference,” —”everyday intrusions or interruptions … that occur due to technology. Unfortunately, this interference is negatively impacting the parent-child relationship.

According to Virginia Tech psychologist Shalini Misra, “The mere presence of a smartphone—even if not in use—can degrade private conversations …” resulting in diminished efforts to disclose their feelings and/or understand each other. The ability of a person to be physically present but absorbed by “a world of elsewhere” was described by psychologist Kenneth Gergen as “absent presence.”

Yet, responsiveness and shared feelings are hallmarks of satisfying relationships. When a person is pre-occupied, their communication may be marked by delayed responses, flat intonation, and minimal eye contact, resulting in missed opportunities for authentic connection. Family members’ obsession with their phones may literally be contributing to a downward spiral of interaction and relationship satisfaction.

Relationship expert, John Gottman, explains that unstructured moments spent in each other’s company hold the most potential for our building closeness and a sense of connection. Comments and observations that invite laughter or conversation provide the opportunity for parents and teens to strengthen their rapport. Danger lies in family members checking their devices so often they become oblivious to each other’s bids for attention, and connection.

(Acknowledging Hara Estroff Marano)

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