Is technology and social media impacting on our social lives at home?

oliver General, Healthy spaces, Technology/ Energy Saving

It seems that our domestic social lives have been making the headlines over the last few weeks with the impact of smart phones, tablets and mobile devices at the root of these changes – both good and bad, depending on your view point. Recent research by the National Literacy Trust shows having set mealtimes with the whole family will boost a child’s confidence and communication skills. Spend some quality time with your kids then a 10-minute tablet or screen session won’t seem like such a crime; but to do this design plays a key role in prioritising space that quality time can happen in – at the heart of the home.

The affect of social media and smart-phones on children isn’t often considered, but they are growing up amid a sea of electronic media. It’s important for parents to consider how this may impact social life, development, academics, adjustment, and how parents can serve as a buffer from some of the potential negative consequences.

It is important for educators and parents to think twice before allowing kids to play on their tablets. These attention grabbing  gadgets should be taken seriously and are not to be used as “digital babysitters”. Children should still ideally learn through face-to-face interaction and use their own imagination instead of playing ‘Angry Birds‘. If you absolutely have to keep your child happy during a long holiday flight, make sure to limit their screen time to a set period and provide them with alternative activities to keep them entertained- remember colouring in books when you were growing up?

Smart phones aren’t just an issue for our younger generation, from the dinner table to the bedroom smart phones are never far away.

People view their smartphones as an extension of themselves, and panic sets in when they are separated from their devices, with privacy concerns topping the list. 72 percent said that they’re never usually more than five feet away from their phone. Twelve percent have even taken them into the shower,  while more than half admit to using their phones while behind the wheel, according to a new survey, “Mobile Consumer Habits” commissioned by Jumio Inc.

This smart phone ‘addiction’ could be having a massive impact on our children, with our own behaviour acting as a model for our children. And if we’re constantly on the phone or other smart device, then we are creating a legacy of distracted people raising distracted children.

While there are many negative aspects to smartphones and tablets, new research by Ofcom shows that UK families are now more likely to watch TV together  than they have been in over a decade. , the survey of 3,700 over 16s found that far from technology pulling family time apart, it said, the huge growth in smart technology was actually having the opposite effect. Family members are being brought together just as they were in the 1950’s when a TV was likely to be a home’s only screen. “There are a number of factors that are fuelling this – we’re now watching on much bigger, better television sets,” said Jane Rumble, from Ofcom “But also, there’s the rise of connected devices, such as a smartphone or tablet. We’re coming into the living room today clutching those devices, they offer a range of opportunities to do things while we’re watching television.” However the research does show that whilst there most family members now multi-task while sitting in front of the TV- so is there real social value in having a large tv if we sit there multi tasking on additional screens?

So perhaps more than ever its important that we talk and interact with our children, tell them stories (i tend to favour rubbish jokes) , go on hikes, jump around, go wild and just have fun. Real face to face time spent with children will go a long way to counteracting the impacts of screen based entertainment, so its essential that as designers that we find ways to making social spaces functional, relevant and essential spaces at the heart of our homes and our lives.