I recently came across an old article I had saved that appeared in the New York Times back in 2011. The article is entitled Quality Time, Redefined. It was written by Alex Williams. You can read it here. In his article, Williams argues computers, Kindles, and iDevices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iTouch, are creating a different form of quality time for families.
Throughout the article, Williams provides anecdotal evidence from families and couples, who believe these devices have given them more opportunity for quality time, even though they are simultaneously connected to “parallel worlds” through their iDevices. He tells of a family who spends their nights reading, watching shows on iTunes, doing homework, and playing video games all at the same time, in the same room, on each of their individual devices, while interacting with one another about the content they are digesting.
One mom says, “An evening like that can bring more closeness than a night spent huddling over a board game back in the days of analog.”
Williams agrees, and he believes this and other accounts serve as evidence that “technology is bringing the family together, not pulling it apart.” He believes families are pulled together because the “proliferation of devices and media options make it easier for family members to pursue their interests online while seated in the same room.”
But does spending time doing your own thing, submerged in your own world, really count as quality time?
Not in my opinion. Sure, these families are in the same room, and they may even be interacting, but they are not building meaningful relationships with one another. They are, instead, projecting their digital world onto each other through momentary blips of conversation, which doesn’t serve to build deep relationships.
Relationship are built by interacting with one another in a meaningful way. In this article, you don’t hear of anyone talking about their day, the struggles they are having at work or school. Parents are not walking their children through Scripture, nor are they teaching, or even modeling a Christian worldview. Husbands are not washing their wives in the Word, and no one is practicing or learning self-sacrifice. Instead, they are celebrating Mario Kart victories, and sharing an occasional laugh at the latest Facebook video.
These families have not found a new way to experience quality time together. They have, instead, found a new way to experience “Me Time”, while making themselves feel as if they are experiencing family time.
Quality Time Involves
Quality time involves members of the family actually talking to and interacting with one another on a deeper level. Rather than treat the iPad as if it is a pacifier for teenagers, parents need to spend time talking with and drawing their kids out, and couples should be doing the same. A night on the couch indulging in Facebook, Twitter, and Hulu does not build long and lasting relationships. Nor does it allow parents to teach their children the ways of the Lord.
Families need to take time to unplug and disengage from their computers long enough to actually sit and talk with one another. Rather than “veg out” in front of the latest iDevice, parents should be opening the Scriptures with their children and teaching them what the Word of the Lord says. They should be modeling prayer and true Christian fellowship for their children. As well as parents should be spending time discussing the latest social trends, in order to help their children, teenagers in particular, develop a Christian worldview. Doing these things constitutes quality time.
So while the latest technologies are allowing families to spend more time in the same room together, it does not mean they are spending quality time together. Quality time is not interacting while having screen time. Instead, quality time is time together engaged in real and meaningful activity and conversation, which is uninterrupted and unencumbered by our iDevices.
Question for Reflection
- What do you regard as quality time?