The family is described as a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household by most dictionaries. But more importantly than just living together, a family should be able to respect each other while being able to accept opinions and feelings. Families should be able to express anger without denying love, able to communicate clearly and directly while being able to solve problems together. It is debatable whether the constant growth in technology changes the characteristics of a family but what is certain is that technology has definitely changed the way families spend time and interact with each other.
In traditional families TV would be an activity the entire family or most of it would do together while a computer and the internet would be used only when needed. Computers and television sets were considered somewhat of a luxury in traditional families but with technological growth and new age families, they are no more a luxury than a sofa. New age homes are equipped with television sets in nearly every room while almost every household member owns a portable computer. More TV’s however would suggest more viewing but not according to research. A survey on the NY Times Techland Magazine website shows that high income technology familiarized families in the US spend less time watching television. Instead more time is spent on Facebook and Youtube. This does not mean only high income families use Facebook and Youtube since Facebook has reported that 50% of their 500 million active users log on in any given day while mashable.com says Youtube receives 100 million videos per day and 1 billion views. Therefore in a sense the computer and the internet obstruct TV’s but with the use of inventions such the DVR, new age families keep up to date with their favorite programs and still watch less televisions. DVR’s are a foreign language to traditional families. However does this mean that these technologies affect family time? In the case of Tv’s and DVR’s, family members can watch programs together when convenient. This fosters ground for communication and bonding even though it is less than with traditional families. Whilst with computers, communication can be done via social networking, email and instant messaging; and websites such as Youtube serve as common ground or bait.
Cellular phones and software applications that enable free real time video conferencing and texting has changed the way families traditionally interact. The traditional father to son, mother to daughter talks can now be done for free through Skype, facetime on Apple devices or free IMs on BBM (Blackberry Messenger) for Blackberry devices. Family members, who are not fortunate enough to live in the same house that would rely on mail and post cards via the post or pay the charge of telephone, now can communicate as if they are a few feet apart. So even though cellphones and real time interacting software can take away from traditional family interactions, does it actually affect family time? Advances in software development allows free communication, encouraging families to communicate clearly, express and accept opinions and differences, solve problems, respect each other and express anger without denying love.
The structure and functions of the family has transformed tremendously over time. Responsibilities and roles are no longer shared among members in some instances due to the absence or lack of involvement of a member e.g. the presence of only one active parent or parent with demanding jobs, the burden is often left on one member as a result that leaves little or no time for anticipated family outings. Because of this increasing factor families are no longer relying on traditional recreational activities such as going to the cinema, museum, theater, corn house, ice-cream banquets etc. as a mean of providing entertainment. Surprisingly, children within many families don’t know what these activities are all about because they were never exposed to these activities or haven’t been taken for a really long time and so do not have much recollection of what these events entail. Today they are now dependent on technologies such as Ipods, camera phones, mp3 and mp4 players, laptops and notebooks just to name a few.
Family outings are seen to many as time consuming, expensive and in some cases un-interesting because it does not fit the likes of every family member. With the establishment of this new and diverse technological era; whereby computerized programmers are simplified even a child can operate poses a very serious challenge for the already collapsing aspect of family life. These outings were used for strengthening family’s relationship among members. It helped in solving many of the existing tensions and conflicting by promoting the feeling of love and harmony within the family.
Today in many homes, family time is spent in front of the television where little or no interaction can be done because attention is being paid to the television program. In some studies, technology such as the television is regarded as surrogate parents for children because they are left with this technology for long periods of time un-monitored in the absence of their parents; this makes it difficult for families to uphold traditional family outings.
For decades families have been engaged in activities such as picnicking, camping and tours among other activities. These activities serve as a mean of strengthening family ties and reinforcing the common bond between family members. A lot of planning and emphasis are placed on these activities; parents would plan around their busy life styles ensuring that these interactions are compulsory. When children excel they were taken on trips and celebrations were kept among relatives and friends acknowledging their accomplishments. In some instances prize giving were held within organizations in the community.
Today globalization has influenced significant changes in the way we operate, families can be in different parts of the country or even the world and still communicate and in extreme cases be a part of important events such as graduation, the birth of a child or even family council meetings via the internet using features such as Skype; so over the last decades families that can afford these facilities have relied on traditional recreational family activities. Parents now also purchases high powered technological gadgets for their children as a means of a reward for good behaviour, academic performance and also as a substitute for cancellation of family planned activities
Theme parks and tourists sites have also seen a decrease in visitors. These facilities are now utilized on specific holidays and when they do have visitors the turnout is limited as compared to previous years. Children are no longer interested in traditional family activities such as preparing family meals as a way of spending time with each other. Thanks to technology, meals are often eaten on the go or ordered. Another change is regular visits to the store to purchase clothes; this can be done with the click of the mouse – shopping online. One may be left to believe that traditional family recreation activities are becoming extinct.