Science & TechnologyDigital Media Engagement, Part 1

Digital Media Engagement, Part 1

Guest Blog – Miti Ampoma

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Slide Share, HootSuite, Klout, Pinterest, Website, LinkedIn, Google and it goes on and on… The dizzying array of social media at our disposal has transformed the way we communicate. It’s fast, it’s clever, and it reaches millions instantly. Yet how we use it, our responsibilities to each other as human beings when we use it, and how much time we spend on it, is now generating plenty of interest among experts and commentators. That debate is also generating equal interest in managing “a digital family life” – in other words, family life that is at best driven by social media and technology and at worst dominated by it. Sound familiar?

photo3A recent UK study found that modern technology, social media included, is making face-to-face human communication redundant. Almost half of those sampled admitted they used phone calls, text messages, tweets and emails to communicate with family members in the same house rather than going into another room to talk to them in person! We have a generation growing up brilliant at social media but addicted to it. Many young people struggle to look a person in the eye to have a socially interactive articulate conversation. Yet meaningful relationships, the centrepiece of family life and life itself, is lost when there is insufficient interactive human dialogue, leading to misunderstandings, discord, confusion, potential distrust and ultimately family relationship breakdown.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great gift, but it’s worth balancing your family’s use of it with meaningful face-to-face communication, so the technology supports your relationships, rather than takes them over. We all need balance in whatever we do in life and the same applies to our use of social media.

As parents, you want to bring your child up in the best possible way you can, with strong values and moral ethics that will serve them well in life. For this to happen there needs to be effective communication between parents and children, who must learn to build deep relationships, which are in turn built largely through face-to-face communication. To communicate in this way is essential for a strong family life too. Strong communication is what connects our souls... it's what bonds, motivates, inspires and through which parents teach their children the essential values of honesty and integrity. In short, more effective face-to-face communication is integral to a successful family life. No amount of clever social media can replace this.

So while social media is all well and good, it’s worth balancing family life and your kid’s use of it with meaningful face time communication. You want technology to support your precious relationships and balance is the key.

Top tips:

  • If you’re a family welded to social media, start by ring fencing two hours in the week (you can split the time) and allocate this to human face time.
    Increase the two hours by another hour or two over the weekend, so the family has concentrated social media free time together.
  • Better still, have one whole day in the weekend with no social media. Just be and enjoy each other.
  • This may sound obvious but talk to each other! Delve beyond the surface of superficial conversations. Find out what’s bringing joy as well as sadness, what’s made a great day or a disappointing one. Make conversation a habit. Research shows that honest in-depth conversations are not happening enough.
  • If you’re relaxing, switch off your social media and other tech devices to silent. This means switch off the bleeper, ringtone, reminder flash button and vibration mode too!
  • As a family, try relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation where the exercise is great for you and you learn to be comfortable with silence.
  • Have a face-to-face conversation with family members if you are in the same house!
  • Get together for shared hobbies and recreational activities and make that social media free time. For example, have a social media-free barbecue with friends and family. If that seems a real challenge, you definitely need to do it!
  • At home, eat at the table with loved ones with no social media or tech gadgets in sight. Focus your time on listening and contributing to family time. Don’t sneak off to look at your social media messages. They’ll be waiting for you.

Miti_BookCoverDesign (25)With practice and consistent effort, these simple social media-free tips will soon feel natural and right and your relationships will be much healthier for it. If you’re a parent, you’ll be a role model for your children. Start practicing from today to see and feel the difference and enjoy the benefits in your family life.

Miti Ampoma is an award-winning communication specialist and the author of The Innovative Communicator, published by Balboa Press.

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