At times, technology can become the "third wheel," inserting itself into situations where it doesn’t belong.
Technology no longer "serves" our relationships when, instead of acting as a means of connection, it separates two or more people. Let's take a look at some examples.
When does technology serve as a tool for connection?
We've seen technology’s strengths throughout the pandemic ; we've been able to appreciate its ability to virtually close long distances between people through tools like video calls.
We’ve attended graduation parties via video-calling platforms, we’ve exchanged smiles, concerns, and love—at times, from a hospital bed.
We have preserved our bonds with those we love. We have been able to care for one another virtually, even though we may be kept apart because of quarantining or travel restrictions.
Technology has shown its full potential in these sorts of situations, as it fostered connection rather than compromise it.
When does technology separate us instead of uniting us?
Despite all this, there are times when we wrongly delegate tasks to technology and use it when it isn’t appropriate.
Here’s one example: parents not reading bedtime stories to their children and, instead, leaving it to Alexa, the increasingly popular Amazon device.
In this case, technology fails to unite people, but rather creates further division. Though we live in the same house, we leave certain tasks to technology that would otherwise be moments of nourishment for relationships between our children and us.
Alexa: the metallic voice that replaces mom and dad
British research has revealed that, despite the fact that Alexa's voice is tinny and not very expressive, more than a quarter of the parents interviewed in a study commissioned by the charity Book Trust—a British volunteer organization that promotes reading to children—rely on Alexa or other apps to read their children stories, so that they don't have to do it themselves. Often parents will use a tablet or cell phone to put their children to sleep, even though both have harmful effects on our nervous system and sleep schedule.
So why do it? Well, because we are tired or have too many commitments.
Our dependence on technology grows, even in the evening hours.
The charity Book Trust's survey of 1,000 U.K. parents with children under the age of 10 was conducted to find out if the habit of reading bedtime stories was still part of the family routine and seen as a chance to connect with our children.
The results revealed that many parents rely on technology for this type of activity. While nearly half (49%) say they want to read a story to their children every night, only 28% are able to do so. Three in ten (31%) say work or commuting prevents them from getting home on time, while one in five feel they are simply "too busy."
One in four (26%) said they have tried using technology as virtual assistants for reading bedtime stories.
Reading with children strengthens our bonds with them and fosters various areas of development
Book Trust president, Gemma Malley, explains that parents are finding it "increasingly difficult" to fit bedtime stories into their busy schedules.
"I know from experience that it can be tempting to replace reading aloud with a device, but trading books for technology can have profound consequences. Just ten minutes of reading a book together a day makes a difference."
Reading a story aloud to our children has so many benefits that we cannot negate: not only does it bring us closer to our kids, but it also helps build language skills, resilience, confidence, and imagination.
Reading to children stimulates the mind and improves language development, enriching their vocabulary; it stimulates their socialization skills and hones their listening skills, as well.
In short, perhaps it’s better to turn off Alexa—at least in the evening. Disconnecting from everything and everyone, even if only for twenty minutes, can help us enjoy a unique and irreplaceable moment like reading a bedtime story.