Future of Family – Technology. The past ten years have seen an extraordinary change in the way children are developing in this new world. What changes can we expect for our children and families?

Never before have toddlers been attached to devices like they are now. I am not saying this is all bad, what it is – is life.

As a Family Futurist I can see there is going to be perhaps an incredible change in the way our children develop. What this difference will be, remains unknown as never before have we experienced the plethora of opportunities available to entertain our kids. From birth, it seems our babies are being amused by what is on the screen. In toddlerhood, they are streaming and flicking through programs themselves deciding on what it is they wish to watch, play or listen to. This has never before happened. I also wonder what is happening to our children’s imagination development?

Not only this, but our children are the first generation where their parents are also so engaged with devices there is less interaction with the child. Less interaction in regards to touch, attention, vocal tone, language and play.

How then is this going to impact on families and children within the next 15-20 years? The impact will undoubtedly occur as we continue this pace of technology. While decades ago we worried about kids being too engaged with television, dad sat at the table reading the paper and mum loved flicking through the magazines. Now we have devices infringing into our lives and family, every second of every day. Social media blings, email notifications, friends comments, all continuously alerting us.  We are immersed in our devices. Then, of course, we have the games and searching the web for everything. There is no break.

How then does all this affect family engagement and parent-child interactions?

This is becoming an issue even now, yet within 15-20 years it will be exacerbated considerably.

The impact of what I see is likely to occur in many families, often without conscious knowledge, it is in fact happening, it is becoming significant even now.

Parents are already getting out of depth on the games and apps their children are engaged in. New ones appear every week or two for our children to immerse themselves in. This is not the main issue. What is happening is the way children are already gauging themselves by their interactions, friends and likes they obtain. This is determining their self-worth, and this is incredibly dangerous.

We are already witnessing children with issues of anxiety, sleep deprivation and depression. Perhaps the devices and these interactions are a significant cause. Then, of course, they see parents in their devices at all hours, not understanding what they are doing, just seeing them engaged. This then models to the child that devices are good while all the time parents are not following the games and app their kids are absorbed in.

What then does the next decade or two bring?

It seems the generation we are rearing now is venturing into entirely new territory. How do we guide and help them when we the adults are already out of our depth with what kids are into. This is the disturbing question. We cannot take away devices they are here forever. We can’t stop new games of violence as this seems to what kids gravitate toward. Cyberbullying seems to be escalating and hurting so many of our future generation, and social isolation is taking over. While it all seems contrary, there are some positives that we can take from this, once we know how.

Accepting that family is changing rapidly, and how our children will interact and communicate with parents is altering as well. In years to come we are likely to text and email our kids regularly while residing in the same house as this is where the attention will be gathered, from their device. Family outings, of course, will continue with most kids all playing next to each other in silence enjoying their online game instead of running around outside with balls or the dog.

As this is going to become the new normal, what is essential is ensuring we continue to have device free meals so the family can sit, talk, interact and communicate. Eating and sitting together may be one of the only times this may occur within the walls of the family home in years to come. Not only that, we must ensure we take the time to stop, talk and cuddle our kids. Human touch is essential for emotional, psychological and physical development. I already see young teenagers affected by lack of cuddles, hugs and communication with their parents. This is devastating. Perhaps their parents are so engaged in games, work or social media, the kids gravitate toward games to satisfy their time as many tell me how ignored they feel. These kids clearly tell me what they want and need is their parents attention, time, touch and understanding of what it is they are participating in. No of course they won’t volunteer this, they do expect the parent to want to know, to ask, enquire and bother them, just a bit.

I wonder how different this new world it is from what many are already experiencing?

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