Technology can bring families closer

cell phone

“hi daddy how r u?”

I sat down to write this column yet have been constantly interrupted by the phone pinging away next to me. It’s a text from my daughter. Followed by another, and then another. She’s not away at college or across town. She isn’t grocery shopping or dining out with friends. She’s in the next room. I can practically hear her thumbs on the keypad from here.

Christmas 2014 was the year of the smartphone. My older children got them to keep in touch with their friends, post to Facebook, take pictures and play games. My youngest just wanted to text. She wanted to text me and her mother and her siblings from the next room over or, many times, from the next sofa cushion over.

I just called out to her in response and she yelled back: “Text!”

So this is where we are in the Alley house. This is what we’ve become. We are in constant communication from when we rise in the morning until bedtime. And sometimes until just after bedtime (“goodnite daddy”).

It isn’t such a bad thing really. Before any of you get the idea that I need advice, that we’re lacking in discipline over here, that we give in too easily to the wants of our children, I’d ask that you to delete that thought. We wrestled with all of that preholiday. We’ve wrestled with it for 17 years, since my first child was born with one cellphone in the house and a newfound sense of parental self-righteousness telling us to get rid of cable television. The 1998 cellphone then was strictly for emergency calls, we reasoned, the cable was gratuitous and potentially damaging.

Later, of course, we used that cellphone to call the cable company for a reinstall. Shortly after, our son found the Cartoon Network and we found a minute of peace.

Like it or not, technology makes our lives easier. From texting a spouse to pick up milk on the way home to Googling up a recipe for dinner, the ability to bounce messages and questions off satellites has increased the conveniences of our society. Our children began getting phones based on their age and maturity level as our lives became busier and the necessity to keep in touch with four children, and they with each other, became crucial.

“tell mommy im hungry.”

Necessity is subjective, I’ll admit that. But the truth is, this family is in closer contact now than ever. When I was a teen, I’d lock myself in my room to talk on the phone. My kids today are texting their friends, but they’re doing it right here next to me. I can get in touch with them immediately after school, from a meeting or while out to lunch. We send each other links to Internet articles that we think might be of interest. Sometimes we just say hello.

Technology doesn’t necessarily detract from conversation and closeness, but can enhance them. Sometimes, perhaps, too much — I just got a text from the bathroom. Despite this, it’s good to hear from my children, wherever and whenever.

I’m fine, by the way, Genevieve, thank you for asking.
Link to The Commercial Appeal