So, here we are the 21st century. Technological advances are appearing on what appears to be a daily basis, kids seem to know more about technology and media platforms than the teachers at school and many parents possibly feel like they are being left far behind in the days of modernist family life and its archaic principles. Parents may have many approaches in their quest to regain quality time with their children and family and may be attempting to re-discover a common factor in which the family can re-take their position in one room as a collective. But is the common factor already present? I believe that it is and that the common factor is indeed technology and popular culture. I can almost witness every parent reading this (especially over the age of 40) sighing with their head in their hands, yelling “NO! Not technology, anything but!” as they struggle to release the i pad from five-year old Johnny’s grasp.
To reach my conclusion, I asked myself many questions and probed deeply into my own beliefs regarding family life and shared experiences. My questions would include:
- Is technology causing a divide in family life?
- Have we lost the common link which enables interaction between parents and children?
- Is technology the gap to bridge the generations?
- Has post-modernism relegated family life to the history books forever?
I believe that family life, as we knew it throughout the 20th century, has changed. The family has evolved alongside technology, creating fluidity amongst societies and cultures, allowing for a reduction in hegemonic practices and the ability for members to explore the World-Wide-Web, at the same time as kissing Granny “Goodnight”on the cheek.
Of course the introduction of technology into the family arena is nothing new. Each decade has witnessed media in a variety of forms and each one has, no doubt, heard many cries of “It’s a new fangled fad, it wont last!” from the households older generations and their ideology of the more simple way of life in days gone by.
The “new fangled fads”, included the introduction of the radio into the living room of many British families from the late 1920’s . This would enable the private world of the family, direct access to current affairs and encourage partial mobility on both a social and practical level. However, it also included the ability for the family to share a type of togetherness and a shared interest through that of a basic technological advance. Quality time would be spent gathered around the radio set, allowing communication between members to continue, regardless of age or personal opinion. The media platform itself would become adopted to be used in this way by the family, that is to say: they purposefully made the radio their focus of family time. The family held control over the technology.
Fast forward thirty years and along came the television set .
It marched into family life in the 1950’s with great force and authority, offering a greater social intake of content. Sport, music, news and drama, would enable families to enter into a visual realm of consumerism, one which they had previously been prepared for through the medium of radio and its promotion of advertising and materialism. By 1958, over half of the UK population owned a T.V set, introducing the objective that the appliance had edged its way in as the extra family member in the room. Families were able to travel the world, from the comfort of their armchair (sound familiar?!) and adopt new approaches to both technology and knowledge in an unprecedented way.
So technology and new media had begun its absorption into family life. Families appeared to hold control over their technology and media during the 20th century. When Dad said it was time to turn off the T.V, there was little argument. However, during the 1970’s and 80’s, the introduction of the VCR would enable everyone to record a programme for later viewing. Although this would still exert control over the impact of technology, it would also further impinge on time that the family would spend together. The affordability of extra T.V sets and VCR’s, would allow family members to retract from the centrality of shared space, i.e, the living room and have access to a piece of technological media in their own personal space, for example, the bedroom.
Had new media and technology initiated a divide in the family?
Or, had the family begun to lose control of their use of technology?…
To be continued…
- https://pixabay.com/p-65677/?no_redirect. CC0-public domain. No attribution required. Thanks to:Geralt-9301 for the image.
2. https://pixabay.com/en/doll-grandma-kitchen-children-toys-550580/. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.Thanks to: blickpixel for the image.