It is the most profound definition of socialization within a family when a child simply states that “Families do things together, and Mom and Dad make the rules.” In an era where there can be miles of physical separation between members of a family on any given day, technology has the effect of keeping them “together” in ways that were not possible even 15 years ago.
Parents can keep track of their children, reassure them if something is going wrong, travel quickly to where they are, know what is going on at school, locate them with GPS technology, and see how the college students are doing with facebook or myspace accounts.
At home, there is the ability to either order a quick meal so that everyone can sit down together for dinner, or to cook and interact while the children are doing their homework in open plan family rooms and kitchens. Multi player games or movies that are shown on the big screen allow families to engage in group entertainment. Even the traditional board game, with new technology and design features, remains a favorite activity. These days, even an interactive tennis, golf or other sport can be played inside on a rainy day.
But one interesting aspect of technology and family socialization is the “home office”, where not only does the work of the home get done, but the work that comes home is an issue. The boundaries between work and home have been attacked and blurred until “grown up’s” homework is a factor in the social life of home. 1
From the children’s homework and socializing, to the parents projects that migrate from the workplace the computer causes every family member to spend some of their at home time in single person activity that causes separation and isolation from the others.
Another aspect of technology: road travel on well designed roadways, has either contributed to or even caused the advent of the “Soccer Mom” lifestyle, where the caregiver spends enormous time ferrying the children from one supervised and organized activity after another, but where parental involvement and interaction is minimal. Children are dropped off at swimming class, dance class, or soccer practice, then left to fend for themselves while the parent shops or does other things.
Such activity exposes children to activities and people that the parents do not observe and know. When there are problems, the child can have difficulty in getting it through to an adult that they may not like the activity, may not be treated well by the coach, or might even be bullied by others when no adult supervision is present. This causes big problems with trust and support issues. To compound the problems, the child cannot get the attention of a stressed out parent who has been running around far too much and in far too disorganized a fashion to listen effectively to a stressed out and worn out child.
As a result, technology has created both surprising opportunities for families to interact, while also creating opportunities for families to have far too much isolation from each other. But it is important to view technology in a way that goes beyond the electronic toys, and to pay attention to the technological changes in architectural, work, and municipal structures within which people operate these days.
1. Dr. J.A, English-Lueck “Technology and Social Change. The Effects On The Family”