How To Foster Healthy Attachment In The Age Of Technology and Internet
The internet has become the go-to for all of us, including children and teens to stay connected with their friends during this pandemic when the alternative isn’t much of an option. It has become the crux of our lives and has made things possible in a time where face-to-face interaction may be on hold a bit longer. But let’s be real, it didn’t happen overnight and it isn’t changing tomorrow. The internet and social media are here to stay, so let’s dive deeper into what we can do about it.
I remember before COVID when going to brunch on Sundays and trying different restaurants in the Atlanta area used to be something I looked forward to with my partner. I mean have y’all tried the dim sum in Chamblee? (Chef kiss). I recall a time where we were sat next to a family with two young children. Every single person including mom and dad were on their phones. Even the youngest child who looked to be about 4 y/o had a phone and was watching a video. Not one of them made eye-contact or were talking to each other while eating their meals.
But we don’t just need people in the sense that I need someone to rotate the tires on my car, though that’s part of it, but what I mean is we need engagement with people to form healthy bonds. Children, more than any other group suffer the most from having emotionally unavailable parents in their life. Children where one or both parents are emotionally unavailable have different struggles as those where parents are attentive and spend quality time with their children. Quality time and being accessible builds healthy emotional development and allows them to feel seen and heard. On a deeper neurological level, it affects the way their brain develops.
Being accessible teaches healthy boundaries and builds valuable tools as adults like:
- Feeling confident asserting yourself at work
- Setting healthy boundaries in relationships
- Better social skills
- Understanding your worth
- Improved ability to focus
- Feel comfortable expressing and asking questions
- Learning to trust yourself and others
- Understanding the value of your voice
- Improved critical thinking
The effects of human connection on the brain
Don’t get me wrong, I know parents are trying their best and these days, both parents and even grandparents have to work a full-time job. But let’s talk about how technology has replaced quality family time and intimate relationships and what we can do about it.
Kids are doing e-learning and using the internet to stay in touch with their friends – this needs to happen. But when their internet usage isn’t monitored and they begin to rely on social media and gaming to feel valuable and connected to people, we have a problem – Internet addiction. Real connections naturally helps to release these happy good feeling chemicals that they are turning to social media and family for. I’m talking old school, face-to-face interaction with eye-contact is best here, whether in person or through video. Eye-contact naturally releases dopamine and oxytocin, the bonding hormone. It also allows us to emotionally attune to the person we are interacting because we can read their face and body language. Our mirror neurons kick into gear and create for a safe space where we intuitively pick up on the other persons emotions and social cues. This is something that technology can only help so much with and might even prevent from occurring, decreasing social skills and bonding.
Here are 17 ways the family can improve boundaries with technology and internet
- Limit the use of internet use to school and work. Figure out how much time they need for this.
- Use phone, internet, and gaming time as a reward, not the norm. Ex. If you finish your chores, you get 30 minuets of gaming time; After you finish your homework, you get 30 – 60 minutes of phone time with friends or to check social media. This time will vary based on the age of the child, the older they are, the more time they get.
- Dinner with the family at the table with no phones, that includes adults.
- Engage your kids and partner at dinner. Click here for is a list of questions to get your kids talking. Click here for a list of questions for your teens.
- Family activities every 1-2 weeks like playing board games.
- Check-ins. Build trust with your kids by showing up and getting curious (but not pushy).
- Read books to the kids or start a mini bookclub with your partner.
- Make a list of 50 things you’ve wanted to try. Get this kids to make their own list, and if possible, do it.
- Do a creative project with your family. Your teen is curious about woodworking? Do it with them.
- Show your fun side – let the kids give you a makeover.
- Go for a walk with your partner and get talking.
- Cook a meal together – kids/teens need to learn life skills.
- Share about your life and your childhood. Let them get to know you too.
- Help them make a fun/creative gift for their friends as a way to keep in touch.
- Give them praise when they do a good job. Kids needs recognition for their accomplishments.
- Put the phone down.
- Be consistent – the most important factor.
Need help with Internet Addiction Coaching? Contact me for a free consultation.
Zulaikha Straight, MA, LPC, NCC, NCIAC, NCLC
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