The advent of technology has brought a lot of benefits to humanity. In the area of information and communication Technology (ICT), the best gift it has offered us is that of connectivity. In a world where we have mobile devices capable of connecting us to a person thousands of miles away at the click of a button, you would reckon that this generation of humanity is closer to each other than they have ever been. But is that the case?
Let us look at statistics to ascertain some facts in that regard.
Ever wondered how much time the average human spends on their mobile phones? A report in a BBC publication revealed that the average person spends about 4.8 hours of active time staring at screens. Now, that might not sound like much until you realise that the average human has an active time of 14 hours per day, excluding the time they devote to leisurely activities and sleeping. That is about one-third of our active time.
You might think, what are we all doing on our screens for that long?
Are we connecting with people as we claim?
Again, data from Statista shows that the average human spends 2 hours and 27 minutes out of the 4.8 hours surfing through social media. Further statistical research shows that the social media platform YouTube holds the record for the average time per month spent by users on social media, followed by Facebook and TikTok, tying at second position.
At the end of the day, despite the webs of connectivity holding us all together, we seem so distant from the next person. The internet has made it so that someone could be surfing the web from Nigeria but be virtually in France. Therefore, it can be said that we are so close and yet so far away, and sadly this division is slowly creeping into the very foundation of human relations- the family.
How are Mobile Phones a Threat to Family Relationships?
Let us start by saying that the danger that mobile phone addiction poses is not just against family relationships but relationships in general. However, for this article, we will keep the discourse within the frames of family.
The truth is that the use of cellular devices has changed us socially, so much so that in some cases, the first thing we do when we wake up from sleep is to reach for our mobiles rather than check up on the people in the same house with us.
The overuse of mobiles and their addiction is fast becoming a compulsive behaviour for most people in our generation. Worse still, it is creeping into the family and creating more issues for family relationships. This growing attachment to our cellular devices seems not only to be affecting our relationships but our mental and emotional wellbeing as well.
For instance, the apparent dangers associated with mobile phone use and driving have led to more accidents over time and even death in some cases. This proves that in more ways than we could imagine, the overuse of cellular devices is driving us apart and even to our deaths.
How Exactly are Mobile Phones Driving Us Apart?
The use of our cellular devices is still very relevant to our everyday lives as it has a variety of functions we cannot do without. Of course, we would always have to look at our phones to check our messages, and emails, make a call or text a friend, but the issue arises when all those tiny pockets of time spent looking at the phone for these functions begin to accumulate over a short period.
Even without you knowing it, you would have devoted a sizable part of your active time to your phone rather than channelling some of that time into fostering a genuine connection with those you care about.
The truth is that the busier we get in our families, the less time we have to devote to family. So, it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of siphoning whatever free time you find to your devices instead of your families, even when you are amongst them.
The more this practice is repeated, the more you are subconsciously conditioned to make it a habit. Studies have shown that when you are with a person, and they are constantly reaching for their phone to check stuff or scroll through apps, you begin to feel alone, especially if it happens while you are having a conversation with the said party.
This behaviour is termed phubbing, or phone snubbing, and has been shown to have adverse effects on people who are on the receiving end of it, including unhappiness, low self-esteem, and depression. This is because we are emotionally wired as human beings to want 100% attention from the person we are with, especially during a conversation.
The impact of such behaviour on our families is discussed below:
1. It Cuts Away from Family Time
In the average household setting, there are already a load of activities contending with your family time that we barely have adequate time allotted for bonding with our families. Considering this, it becomes an extra burden when you habitually spend too much time on your phones. This is because one of the characteristics of such behaviour is finding yourself losing track of time.
The more time you spend doing whatever activities you do on your devices, the less time you have allotted for family bonding. Over time, it becomes the norm in the household, resulting in little or no attention given to your spouse and the kids.
2. The behaviour can be transmitted
Do you know what is worse than one person phubbing? It is two people phubbing.
Sadly, the possibility of that happening is very high, as social experiments have shown that the natural response to being phubbed is pulling out your phone as self-defence to phub too.
3. Your Kids Are Watching— and Learning
Kids learn mainly through observation.
Throw a kid into an environment where the norm is cussing, and soon enough, they begin to add a few swear words to their vocabulary. Similarly, the more time a child spends watching their parents devote quality time to their cell phones, the greater the likelihood of them picking up the same behaviour.
This becomes a problem in our society today where kids already have mobile devices. Therefore, they are prone to becoming addicted to cellular devices overuse at a very early stage and, worse still, could start exhibiting behaviours like phubbing.
4. Cell Phone Addiction
The constant use of mobile devices can result in addiction, as you may have already noticed. This addiction is on par with other mental or social addictions like gambling and may leave its victims feeling unfulfilled or incomplete without their phones.
An addiction like this is sure to strain your relationships, as you become mentally conditioned to prioritise the time spent on your mobiles over the time spent with the members of your household.
5. It is Reconditioning your Social Interaction
If you were to place strangers in a room for a couple of minutes, chances are that they would pull out their devices in the first few seconds of being amongst other people rather than speak with them. This is proof that the use of phones is changing the way we interact with each other, and even our socialisation skills in general.
Even amongst kids, screen time is slowly becoming the chief way of dealing with boredom, making it difficult to encourage socialisation amongst our kids in the absence of virtual entertainment.
In the household, this loosens the mental and social connection between the family members, as we have become used to interacting via cellular devices and other virtual avenues rather than in real life.
6. It is reducing the Quality of your Relationships
Agreed, we may all agree that amidst our tight schedules we still manage to make time for your family, but the truth remains that if your cellular devices are part of that quality time, then you might not be giving as much quality as you think you are giving.
You could spend the whole day with your child, but if that time consists of several distractions from your mobile device, it is sure to be picked up by your child, and they may feel ignored even without your knowledge.
It is not about the length of time you spend with your household but the quality of time you devote to them, that’s what counts. Ultimately, in the face of all these threats, your ability to build a quality bond with those you love might depend on your readiness to sacrifice a part of your screen time for family time.