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New Gadgets: Do They Divide or Unify Families?

I saw technology do both over Christmas weekend.

The fire was crackling. The stockings were empty. The kids were sound asleep.

Christmas was over and the adults were up late playing with their toys: iPads, a Kindle, a MacBook Pro and an iPhone 4S.  

I was on a Kindle. My brother-in-law was showing my father-in-law how to navigate an iPad, my wife watching enviously beside them. My other brother-in-law was tucked behind his own iPad while his wife checked Facebook on her laptop.

We were all nestled in our technological silos. Silent. That's when my mother-in-law, Lydia—no device in her hand—piped up: "We'd be sitting around talking and playing cards without all these things."

She was right! We joked that next year we could all save ourselves the trouble of travel, buy our gifts exclusively online, mail them to one another and gather on Skype instead of in the living room for the exchange of gifts.

That's when we decided to put down the devices and use just one iPad to play the Scrabble app. We teamed up and passed the iPad around.

What had been dividing us was now unifying us.

And earlier in the evening, I had called my brother on my iPhone and we FaceTime'd my kids with his kids (which always ends up in images of big, gaping mouths filling the screen). I got to see my mom, stepfather, sister, brother-in-law and nephews. Otherwise, I just would have heard their voices.  

So I guess I'm 50/50 on whether such gifts divide or unify families. 

How did such gifts serve to alter your holidays for good or ill?

Did they bring you together or provide a cozy hiding place from family drama?

Tell us in comments. 

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Doug Donovan, Patch senior regional editor for Maryland, Virginia and D.C., lives in Towson but was in Latrobe, PA, for Christmas. 

John December 27, 2011 at 12:19 PM
Fun??? I have not yet seen a tech gadget that was fun. With a constant worry about crash, data loss, virus, intrusion, stolen ID, etc., how can this be fun?
Patricia December 27, 2011 at 01:33 PM
We had a low tech Christmas this year w/Santa only bringing a Kindle for each boy. You gotta love any reason to get them reading for several hours in one sitting. Also, one Mindstorm robotics kit that they need to work on together to figure out how to build and program the final product. Great lessons being learned!
Andre Taylor December 27, 2011 at 04:01 PM
We are a tech family. I have my iphone, ipad and my wife has her iphone. My kids use our old iphone and ipad ( One 5 and the other 2) to learn draw and watch videos. But we take the time to do them together. We take crazy pictures or play puzzle games. Me and my wife compete in different games and also chat constantly when we are apart (but she has a healthy addiction for her facebook). I agree that it can do both. It's a tool and it's outcome is only depended upon the user. If you are divided already electronics will further divide you and set up virtual walls keeping you in and your loved ones out. But if you are not a divided family, I believe you will use it to knit you closer.
Doug Donovan December 28, 2011 at 04:09 AM
We also use the laptop iPhoto to take goofy photos. The kids love doing it. They'd do it for an hour straight if they could stand laughing that hard. So that's definitely a great way to use it to "knit" us closer (love that phrase, thanks)... Doug
John Doe December 29, 2011 at 09:06 PM
This is the reason people have lost their creativity. Try buying toys that don't require batteries or outlets - there are so many fun games for kids. I agree with Elizabeth H.

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