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Technology leaves families struggling to connect, bond

By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: It hasn’t been easy for Haider Al-Mosawi, a father of three, to interact with his three children who are preoccupied with their electronic devices. “It’s hard to compete for our children’s attention when the most entertaining content is only a swipe away on their phones. We used to have a tradition of watching a movie together, but now my children can’t tolerate watching 15 minutes of a movie together because they would rather hop on TikTok, YouTube or Roblox,” he told Kuwait Times.

Dr Jamil Al-Mari, Sociologist and Family Consultant

These days, owning at least one smart device is essential for every family member in order to keep up with their responsibilities. However, the devices could have a negative effect on family bonding. “Eye contact and body language are essential during communication. Although technologies have benefits, they affect the relationship among family members. This definitely creates a gap between them,” Sociologist and Family Consultant Jamil Al-Mari told Kuwait Times.

Family interaction is an important foundation that prepares children for their social life in the future. Therefore, Mari sees their attachment to these devices can leave a bad influence. “Technologies are attractive because they provide numerous kinds of interesting content, which attaches the user to their device. I would like to emphasize on the word ‘attachment’, because humans should not be strongly attached to something, as this would result in unpleasant outcomes,” he pointed out.

Haider Al-Mosawi

Technology supports isolation

Mosawi is not the only parent in Kuwait facing challenges to maintain strong relationships with their children due to technology. Abu Abdullah, also a father of three, told Kuwait Times: “New technologies give independence to each individual. So, every family member is now capable of isolating themselves and using their own devices independently, which not only creates physical distance between parents and children, but also emotional barriers.”

Technology reduces face-to-face interaction, said Abu Abdullah, and increases the distance between parents and their children, which results in a lack of communication and causes misunderstandings. It also contributes to the differences we see between family connections in the past and present. New technology, said Abu Abdullah, supports isolation and solitude, whereas digital devices in the past, such as television, used to bring family members together.

“Television used to encourage family unity because it gathers all family members in one place and introduces a single content at a time,” he said. Since parents didn’t grow up with as much access to the world of technology as their children, it can be quite difficult for them to balance between their traditions and their children’s way of thinking, said Mosawi. With continuous exposure to the digital world, the difference in mindsets and attitudes between parents and their children grow wider.

Losing confidence

Although people of all backgrounds and age groups are exposed to content through technology, vulnerable children are more likely to embrace new thoughts promoted on modern platforms. Mosawi said technology has more influence on his children compared to him, which makes parenting harder.  “My daughters lost their confidence in their looks because they judge their appearance compared to the influencers they see on social media and no amount of praise for their looks seems to register because they’ve been sucked into believing social media is more honest than their parents.”

Children’s attachment to their devices could also have a bad influence on family interaction, which is an important foundation that prepares children for their social life in the future. As a result, children nowadays lack face-to-face social skills because rely on technology to socialize with their family and friends.

Dr Ali Al-Baghlani

According to Dr Ali Al-Baghlani, a psychiatry specialist, strong bonds between family members form through spending time together and making memories away from smart devices. “Using smart devices has a direct impact on the relationship between family members. It minimizes the sense of familiarity that unites parents with their children and pulls apart the family’s coherence. Besides reducing quality time, which cannot be enjoyed behind screens,” he said.

Mohammad Al-Ansari

“Overusing mobile devices has several negative effects, including the paradoxical fact that all of this communication technology is tearing us apart and ruining our interpersonal ties,” said Mohammad Al- Ansari, a man in his 20s. Although smart devices made connecting with others easier, Ansari said, using technology for communication remains deprived of spirit and warmth.

However, there are ways to mitigate its negative impact on family bonds. Mari suggested a few solutions to Kuwait Times: “Parents can specify some time for their children and ban using devices during family time. Also, parents should put effort in planning enjoyable and entertaining alternatives for their children to help them put away their smart devices.”

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