Could strengthening bonds with family and friends be as simple as stepping back from that screen?
There’s no doubt about it – most of us have become so reliant on technology that it’s difficult to imagine life without it. We can now shop online, connect via social media, work from home, study and learn and keep ourselves entertained, all courtesy of technology.
But is it all becoming too much? Is our need to stay connected having a negative effect on the connections that matter most – those with our family and friends?
The answer is simple, says psychologist Dr Joann Lukins , remove technology from your life and see what happens. “I would certainly recommend that families pay attention to the amount of technology being consumed within their household and assess its impact,” says Dr Lukins. “One of the best contributors to resilience is human connection. This is much more effectively achieved when people are directly communicating with each other.”
For some, the idea of spending time with loved ones without technology is a daunting prospect, but Dr Lukins says families can bond without technology, and in most cases it’ll be more effective. “Bonding can be achieved through simple activities: going to the beach, a picnic in the park, playing a board game, eating a meal at the table - with no technology.”
While it might seem easy to turn the television on and spend quality time with your child or spouse watching their favourite shows, it is possible to find interesting ways to bond with family members of all ages without reaching for a device or remote.
For different members of the family, Dr Lukins has the following suggestions for bonding without technology:
Babies: Babies respond well to touch and skin-to-skin contact; eye-to-eye contact is meaningful when at close range; and the human voice can also be comforting to a baby.
Toddlers: Activities including touch (tickles, massage), reading and cuddles are all good for bonding with this age group. Toddlers also like silly games, routines and rituals.
Tweens and teens: Start a conversation and ask them questions to help you understand better how their world works. Find activities you both enjoy or situations where your tween or teen can be the expert. Take an interest in what interests them - even if it isn't something that necessarily appeals to you - or find a project you can do together.
Adults: Conversation and time are again the key. Find mutual ground through conversation - what do you share in common, what are your differences and why? Do things together. Couples in long-term relationships may also benefit from having a regular date night and making time to spend with each other .