Family gatherings: Face-to-face or face-to-screen?

Tech Talk Tuesday #46: How can you encourage face-to-face time this holiday season?

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How comfortable are your kids talking to extended family and adult friends? One concern I often hear from parents is that they think screen time decreases face-to-face communication skills. I have not found any exceptional data around this issue. Families and friends will be together for the holidays and in these settings many kids and adults will gravitate towards their personal devices. When situations are uncomfortable or activity is slowed down this is accepted behavior these days. It upsets me when I see kids disappear into their screens when those special multigenerational opportunities for conversation are right in front of them.

In past years at my husband’s family get togethers, I always voted (alone) that the kids stay connected to the family and not disappear to a TV room. Sometimes I “won” and sometimes I "lost", but I always felt unsettled by the conflict. But, finally, after many years of this struggle, we now all agree that having my voice back then to ensure a balance between on-screen and off-screen time was a good thing. Now, that my kids are teenagers they usually choose on their own for the family interaction.

For this week’s Tech Talk Tuesday, let’s discuss face-to-face family time. Remember, this is for both the adults and the kids to answer:

  • Do you think screen time affects face-to-face communication skills in general?
  • If the conversation gets quiet, are you likely to pull out your device?
  • Is there a family member with whom making conversation is challenging? What tactics have helped?
  • What do you think of this data? A recent Common Sense Media survey of 1800 parents asked parents whether they believed their children's use of social media helps, hurts or makes no difference in terms of their children's face-to-face communication skills. This was the response: 58% said it makes no difference, 34% said it hurt, and 9% believed it helped with their face-to-face communication.