Kristina Beers: Don’t let technology replace people

By Kristina Beers

Special to the Pioneer

I, once again, enjoyed my children over the holidays. I went through even more food and supplies than I did over Thanksgiving since our home became the central holiday hosting and gathering place. I think in December and early January, my bathrooms and floors are the cleanest of the whole year as much as I have to whip through them before and after guests!

I will openly admit that I’m glad we are settled into the hum drum life of January and February. I’ll even say that I wouldn’t mind being snowed in a day or two. Being forced to stay home and take a nap feels like an ok day to me!

However, one thing I observed with all the comings and goings are the predominance of cell phone use among the masses. It never ceases to amaze me how often I saw someone with one in their hand. I even got scolded on more than a few occasions where a family member would say ‘I texted you!’ and I sheepishly respond, ‘Oh, I never checked my phone.’ It would be the lonely one sitting over on the charger.

My kids are big-time offenders. I would even have to admit that, on occasion, I am as well. I don’t think, however, that I fully was aware of the magnitude of people’s dependency on a cell phone until I watched a variety of instances over the holidays:

• A car swerving at the last minute before hitting me because she was on her phone (it was clearly evident as she looked up from the phone in her hand)

• A family eating dinner at a restaurant, silent as mice, as each of the four people were on their individual phones.

• A woman checking out of the grocery store who never once stopped texting or looked up at the checkout person.

• A sweet little girl playing in my living room, stopped to flash a poster smile at mom who snapped a photo. Girl went back to playing and mom went back to scrolling on social media.

• My own kids who were in the same room playing a game of pool with each other. Digitally. Instead of talking smack, laughing, or positioning his body for the perfect shot, he was hunched over a little black box. I almost cried at that scene.

I’m sure there are many more instances you and I have experienced, close calls in a vehicle or sad moments in the restaurant; they all say the same thing: Our communities become less of a community when one is distracted into oblivion.

CNN, Forbes and other news agencies recently reported on several small studies emerging on smartphone use. Many of the concluding results are that cell phone addiction basically is damaging the human ability to pay attention. Even more research shows there is a significant rise in true smartphone addiction as brain development and chemical response in our human bodies are creating cravings much like drug addiction.

In my own little world, I would concur wholeheartedly. The only way I know how to fix it is to be an example for my kids by staying off of mine and yell at them when I see them on theirs too much.

I attempt to announce it’s “family game time!” or some other real-life interaction — for the most part we succeed, but many times we don’t and it’s a sad thing. I also try not to nag too much, but I know my oldest has just about had it with mom complaining about his phone use. Frankly, my husband and I argue about it often ourselves. I can’t help but feel lonely or ignored in a room full of people when they are too distracted by the phone to even look up at me. I imagine, in my lesser moments, my kids feel the same about me.

Folks, I believe this is a big problem but one that certainly can be solved right at home: Stay off your phone. Have no-phone zones or times. Eat dinner together, at a table, without a phone. Leave them charging overnight in a den or other unused room (basically, not your bedroom). Play with your kids or grandkids without taking pictures of them from your phone. Put it down to greet the checkout person.

Our communities are built on interaction and people. Let’s keep technology in its place and use it for our convenience, not our relationships.

Kristina Beers lives in the Remus area with her husband and five sons. She shares her thoughts on parenting teenagers and young adults on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

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