STRONGER TOGETHER: Disconnecting to Reconnect

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Last updated: 17/06/2024

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the importance of modelling a balanced digital life for our children by setting boundaries and valuing real-life interactions over constant social media engagement.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

In the digital age, the allure of social media is undeniable. With a collective investment of 720 billion minutes daily on platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram, it’s clear that these digital landscapes hold a significant place in our lives.

We often find ourselves mindlessly scrolling, unaware of the time slipping away. It offers an endless stream of entertainment, information, and social interaction. Yet what are we sacrificing?

As parents, we often worry about the impact of technology on our children. We are conscious of their screen time and online interactions to keep them safe, yet our own behaviour inadvertently becomes the blueprint they follow. It’s a cycle where the adage “do as I say, not as I do” loses its ground. If they see us constantly attached to our phones, they internalise this behaviour as normal and desirable.

To instil a balanced approach to technology, as parents, we must first model it. This means setting boundaries for ourselves: putting away phones during family meals, engaging in face-to-face conversations, and designating tech-free times and zones within the home. By demonstrating that there is a time and place for social media, we teach our children to value real-life interactions and the world around them.

In this pursuit of balance, we must also recognise the importance of unmediated experiences. Children’s first birthday parties, for instance, are milestones that deserve our undivided attention. It’s tempting to view these events through the lens of a camera, eager to preserve every moment. Yet, in doing so, we risk missing the essence of the celebration—the joy, the mess, the spontaneous laughter that fills the room. These are the elements of life that, though intangible, are the most precious.

The challenge lies not in abandoning our devices but in learning to coexist with them harmoniously. It’s about making conscious choices—deciding when to share a post and when to put the phone down and soak in the experience. It’s about understanding that not every major occasion needs to be broadcasted or recorded; sometimes, the best memories are those shared quietly, without the fanfare of social media.

On the weekend, we had to put our beloved family dog to sleep, the second one in six months. It was a sad and difficult occasion, but amid this heartbreak, I made a conscious choice to switch off my phone for the entire weekend. This decision allowed me to be fully present in the moment, sharing the grief and comfort with my family, free from the distraction of digital notifications. It was a poignant reminder of the importance of being there, truly there, for the people and moments that matter most.

In treasuring life’s raw, unscripted, and private moments, we find the essence of true connection. It’s in these unpublicised experiences that we encounter the heart of what it means to be human—to laugh, to cry, and to share in the full spectrum of emotions with those around us.

As parents, we have the opportunity, and indeed the responsibility, to model a balanced digital life, ensuring that the technology serves us, not the other way around. By choosing presence over posts, we not only enrich our own lives but also offer our children a priceless gift—the example of a life fully lived, beyond the digital realm.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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