When technology takes over, families can unplug and survive

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 19 2011 10:56 a.m. MST

This undated photo courtesy of Frances Andrijich shows Susan Maushart, second from left, with her children, from left to right, Anni, Sussy and Bill (with cat Hazel) as they play a board game together at the family home in Perth, Australia, before the family moved to the U.S.

Frances Andrijich, Associated Press

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They're everywhere. Gleaming screens, clamoring for our attention. Whether it's a hip-hugging BlackBerry, a hand-held gaming system or a personal laptop, technology is nearly inescapable.While connecting with friends and family, staying up on current events, doing business or just de-stressing are important, some technology junkies have reached a breaking point.

Like mother Susan Maushart, who described her family's 6-month technological fast in a new book, "The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone)Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale."

After realizing that she and her three teenagers were failing to connect with each other, she called for the ban of anything with a screen.

Her children, though perhaps skeptical, agreed and found themselves renewing previous interests, discovering new ones and enjoying the time as a family.

It wasn't perfect, Maushart said, but a refreshing reminder of the benefits of a slower-paced life.

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Taking time to turn off has more than just social benefits. Scientists have found that an overabundance of technology can reshape users' personalities, making them more forgetful and impatient.

Technology also prevents the brain from needed relaxing because every second is often filled with tweeting, texting or talking.

Researchers also question if the abundance of information we can now store affects our ability to remember the most important or memorable details.

"When you have 500 pictures from your vacation in your Flickr account, as opposed to five pictures that are really meaningful, does that change your ability to recall the moments that you really want to recall?" Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at Stanford told the New York Times.

Such behavior can even reach addiction-like levels, affecting our performance in other areas of our lives and damaging our personal relationships. And like an eating disorder or a drug addiction, these technology attachments can be difficult to break.

Knowing that such technological dependence can be especially damaging to an individual's spiritual growth and progression, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to college-age young adults about the dangers of living too much in a virtual world.

In his address, "Things as They Really Are," Bednar remarked that the adversary wants to entice young people to abuse their bodies through drugs, alcohol and immorality, or neglect them, by becoming too caught up in the virtual world.

"Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, ear buds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication," he said. "Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience."

sisraelsen@desnews.com

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