The push-pull pendulum
of the digital age

It’s a modern paradox….. Does technology push us apart or create new ways of bringing us closer and keeping us there?

Good old fashioned face time. If you ask non millennial’s, they will tell you it means having a face to face chat with someone, “catching up,” usually ‘one on one’ time, where issues can be discussed or worked out in a personal way.

In 2017, it means something quite different. With a touch of a key, we can have a virtual face to face conversation. An advantage when the person you are contacting is far away. A little less intimate when it replaces actual interaction.

“At the end of the day we are fully embodied beings. Touch, smell, a sense of presence are all important and really these are not available via the internet, social media or phone. A full relationship has all of these things and this is really only achievable face to face,” David Roberts from Relationships Australia NSW stated.

Yet in this modern world of living in different cities, states and countries to loved ones, one on one time is sometimes not an option.

The 2011 census highlighted that within Australia, 26% of people were born outside of Australia and 46% had one or both parents born overseas. In these situations, technology is playing a part in keeping families connected. For Elisabeth Chula, who works in Australia while her husband and daughter remain in the Philipines, having daily FaceTime chats are her saving grace until her family is able to emigrate here.

“Watching my daughter’s face when she tells me about her day at school is the next best thing to being with her. I can see her expressions, I am watching her grow and change from week to week. It still breaks my heart that I cannot hug her or smell her, but it means we can talk almost whenever we want and the distance isn’t so hard,” she said.

For some, technology is not just changing the way we work and live, but having a positive impact on how we function.

Hadassa Haack on location near Wataka, New Zealand. A shoot for a German client that was planned and co ordinated from Sydney.

When German content strategist and Film maker Hadassa Haack moved from Frankfurt to Sydney in 2014, it was a big gamble. She left her family and friends, but kept her German clients who she continues to work with from here – a feat made possible by digital technology.

“I moved to the other side of the planet from both my family and my clients so technology such as skype, facetime, whatsapp, google docs and Evernote help me to stay in touch and be location independent. It helps me to maintain relationships despite being so physically far away,” she said.

Ms Haack who is self employed, also enjoys the exposure the digital age gives her professionally. “Being a freelancer these days, technology opens up so many possibilities to showcase your work, connect with people, build your audience and you don’t have to wait for permission from the old gatekeepers like publishers or film studios.”

While technology can have positive outcomes for Hadassa and Elisabeth, it does lend itself to a world where kids spent up to eight hours on their devices a day.

Rosalie O’Neale is a senior advisor with the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Cybersmart Outreach division. She says children are going online and having digital access at a younger and younger age.

“11 per cent of eight to nine year old have their own mobile phone increasing to 67 per cent of 12 to 13 year olds,” she said.

According a Kaiser Foundation study conducted in 2010, children between the ages of eight and 18 spend an average of 7 hours 38 minutes a day with digital media. When the use of more than one digital device at a time is taken into account, they spend more than 10-1/2 hours a day with digital technologies.

Relationships Australia NSW’s David Roberts points out the downside of this new world reality. The rise and rise of cyber bullying and trolling has had a significant impact on the self esteem and development of millennials and even adults with an increase in reported anxiety, depression and in some cases suicide.

“People can be bullied on the internet. People can be defriended on Facebook. All these things have relationship consequences and so when we talk about the use of technology it’s like most things, there are positives and negatives and both need to be considered,” Mr Roberts stated.

For Rosalie O’Neale it’s also about vigilance. “Talk to your child about staying safe as soon as they start becoming active in the online world, and keep the discussion open as they grow up to make the dialogue part of everyday parenting life. Be sure to also monitor your child’s time online, particularly younger children.”

Our Online Counselling service is a great way to talk to professionals if you are worried about your child’s time online. Drop us a line, if you would like to know more about our Online Counselling service, or you can book a session with us.

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