In the beginning of twenty century, there were numerous articles which were written about the adverse effects on social life because of introduction of telegraph. Some writers argued that it will lead to breakdown of communication and interpersonal relationships. Others went to the extent of suggesting that the children of the time will go wild with serious implications. However, some of those speculations did not come to fruition; it will be naivety for us to declare those assumptions void without considering other factors. Nevertheless, a myriad of steps has been made in media technology for the last hundred years with different implications on the family life. Around four decades ago, media was restricted to newspapers, radios, television and magazines. Currently, digital media has been integrated into the system in terms of, sounds, video and texts which can be transmitted electronically (English, 2002).
Digital media in essence is simply creative embedment of technology in expressing ideas and generally conveying information. In America, people across the generations are turning to their gadgets at an alarming rate. Some of the most popular gadgets range from desktops, smart phones, laptops, cell phones, mp3 players, tablets among others. With digital media accessibility becoming omnipresent, interest has increased in terms of its functionality. Its implications on social, political and economic complications cannot be underestimated. It is been heralded as the new phenomena in terms of configuring our social life and family in particular. Just as debates of four decades ago which concluded that television kept families in their living room instead of their neighborhoods; digital media has come into scrutiny with regard to it effects on families across America (Turow, 2003).
Digital media has revolutionized how people relate, education system and business world. Social scientists and other stakeholders have invested heavily in terms of trying to understand digital media and its effects. Researchers from Chicago school of Business have found that social media like Twitter and Face Book are becoming addictive like cocaine or other hard drugs. They found that digital media has gone viral in average American where texting has become more popular than calling. Surprising the researchers also found out that against popular belief that those in social media are able to form close social groups than those who are not. They attributed it to the fact that people are able to engage more in digital media than in normal interpersonal relationships because they can successfully get away with personal shortcomings such as shyness or stammering. Other people are able to learn how to socialize in the media and directly translate it to their peers and neighbors.
The National institute on Media and Family has confirmed some speculations about how digital media has affected American Families. They found out children spend more time glued to their electronic gadgets than any other activity. This is every parent’s nightmare considering that its implications are that children are spending little time doing physical exercise and playing games. In fact, most children prefer playing basketball on the video games rather than the actual game. With obesity among children rising to astronomical heights it is becoming more of a family challenge in terms of health matters. However, since the use of gadgets is not confined to the children but spreads across generations, this health issues which can be eliminated through physical activities has continued to encroach into America society at large (Ito, 1998).
Internet connection gadgets have made them to spread information at high rate and without geographical or time barriers. With ever increasing internet users business communities have seized the opportunity to promote their firms. Research has shown advertisement in the digital media have sky rocketed in the last decade ; with internet search engines such as Google making it easier to advertise it is becoming more lucrative. The introduction of search optimization techniques means that internet marketing is more effective. The effectiveness in the internet coupled by coverage is more detailed than advertisements on newspapers or radio, it is also cheaper considering it’s not time bound. The firms have invested in this area of marketing.
Unfortunately, some advertisements which promote alcoholic drinks and cigarettes have adverse effects on children. This can be attributed to the fact that they spend most of their times glued to this electronic screens and some of the advertisement figures are most likely their role models. With parents not there most of the time due to economic reasons that force some to have even two jobs. It leads many children especially teenagers to indulge into drugs and irresponsible sexual behavior. This can destabilize family units in terms of formation as the addicts require care or pregnant children. This piles more pressure to the family and some end up turning out to be broken homes. The research also found out a considerable number of children are also been exposed to adult content such as pornography with unprecedented effect on their behavior (Gentle, 2002).
Research has shown that the most important aspect of family is communication. However, communication has also suffered in the family due to digital media. It is normal to find everybody in a family concentrating with their gadgets at the expense of spending together as a family. Traditional dinners are no longer adhered to and children are becoming more strangers to their parents in the process. With children getting information which is not censored from internet and parents lacking capacity to control it, it is taking toll on family values because it is simply becoming harder for parents to guide their children. This has led to many children going wild. The parents no longer have time to talk to their children diminishing their ability to detect any changes happening to them.
In their place as the main advisor and shapers of morality digital media has effectively taken over. With internet offering information that ranges from abortion to murder tips it has replaced normal communication as way of conveying morals. In its place it has glorified popular culture in the process compromising the children who are still trying to have their own identity. This has contributed to some extent social evils such school shootings and serial killers who in the digital media are depicted as heroes’ thorough movies and series.
This has prompted the orthodox church council and United States Catholic Bishop to call for research. In fact they support the government research program which was endorsed by the president with a mandate of determining if there is a relationship between violence and digital media. They strongly believe that violent video games that depict characters killing each other influence violence in schools. The two bodies claimed that there motivation was from over seventy five million members of their church especially parents who were worried about their children safety. They sited recent shootings of school in school arguing that children are no longer safe even in schools piling pressure on parents who keep on worrying if their children will actually come home in the evening.
Digital media has also some effects on education as a whole. Recent study conducted by Common Sense Media in collaboration with Pew Research Centre‘s internet and American Family Life Project has found some contradictory effects caused by digital media. On the positive side they note that children have acquired skills of searching for information. They could easily retrieve information from internet which has made it relatively ease especially when giving assignments .it has also become easier to research for wider range of topics in a short time compared to when they were forced by the circumstances to spend our looking for reading material in the library.. However, it is other findings that made educators, policy makers and families worry about the influence of the digital media in the long term bases. According to research findings, over eight five percent of the students are easily distracted in class.
They found out that gadget uses have lowered the concentration of students in class and their attention span has diminished to incredible levels. The study found out that generally over sixty percent of the time the use of digital do more harm to children than good academically. The teachers who participated in the research lamented how their job has been redefined by the digital revolution. They claimed that in order to maintain concentration levels they are force to introduce extra curriculum activities in class such as dancing or singing. This approach may be interfering with learning time but at the same time it has become a desperate measure in order to keep children attentive in class. The research attributed these negative effects on gadgets like television, video games, texting and networking which has made children to perceive anything that is not entertainment as boring (Ellen, 2003).
Digital media has also been confirmed to having effects on marriages across the country. Most couple nowadays uses gadgets like cell phones and computers to communicate with their peers and family. This has a positive impact in that they are able to keep in touch with their friends and families and at the same time continuing with their busy marriage life. The internet has brought social media like facebook to the scene with great effects. It has now become easier and cheaper to keep informed about, your friends. It takes seconds to confirm about your friend location, what event they are attending about their day among other things. It is also easier to keep contact with your high school or college friends even after marriage or being separated by thousand of miles. Digital media such as Skype has been instrumental in keeping marriage lively especially for our servicemen who are serving on foreign lands like Iraq and Afghanistan (Sonia, 2002).
Unfortunately, it has also led to many rifts among couples in the same measure. According to Tara Frites, a marriage counselor in New York many couples who have sought her help have some consistency in terms of their grievances. Most complained their partners kept on texting even during what is supposed to be their private time. Some claimed their partners no longer listen to them with their talks being intercepted time to time by some texts or simply their spouses continuing to text when they are talking to them. This has led to suspicion of infidelity and some times complete breakdown of communication. When there is suddenly breakdown of the communication separation in most cases becomes investable. This is because some couple just gets tired of trying to make things work out and they start to look for alternatives (James, 2003).
Some men felt aggrieved that their women took their slightest shortcoming as an opportunity to discuss it with their friends while women asserted how their men don’t listen to them leading them to confide to their friends. Tara postulates that although digital media has given as avenues of communication which is more convenient and cheaper it has also led to rise of conflicts in marriages. In fact texting or using facebook does not cause marriage break up but people do. On the contrary, these avenues create infidelity throughways that did not exist around twenty years ago. She argues that, twenty years ago even if you had some interest on a co worker you actually hesitated to approach them. You actually gave a second thought before calling them at home due to logistics involved. Some questions like what if their partners answered came up making most people to abandon the idea altogether.
Currently, those fears are not there because email and texts are more private nowadays. You can be watching even a romantic movie with you partner and at the same time she is texting another person, they are having affair with. Facebook and twitter also means that you can easily contact an old lover and rekindle the relationship by simply typing their names on the search engine. Unlike before, nowadays couples keep constant communication with their older lovers and slightest form of insecurity can lead infidelity because of availability of options. She therefore concludes by successfully drawing an interesting comparison between digital media and infidelity (Tara, 2010).
On the health issues, digital media has completely taken over in terms of our lifestyles. Smoking and drinking has been glorified coupled by drinking of sodas and other junk foods which are hazardous to our health. Some of the firms that manufactured these commodities have done vigorous campaigns to make sure their products do not stick in the shelves of shopping malls. With families preferring more in doors activities like video games and activities like exercise taking the back sits the rise of chronically diseases like cancer and diabetes. This has led to grieves in the family and early deaths which has affected children in the particular leading to drop outs and indulgence of illegal activities like drug peddling. The rise of alcoholism has also led to breakdown of families due to violence and financial constrains that accompany families which their bread winners are alcoholic.
The rise of individualism has also been worsened by the digital media. Most people in the family settings suffer alone because everybody is occupied with their social media life at the expense of the family time. Research has shown that this has led to social breakdown leading to suicides and extreme deviance like rape. In fact psychologists have found most rapists to suffer from family breakdown associated with alcoholism and violence. This can also be supported by the fact that most people in our prisoners are those who came from broken homes where they missed parenting and general care (George, 2002).
In line with chaos theory that argues society is not controlled by a single forces but rather a combination of them. We can conclude that family being the primary init of the society has been influenced by different things. Some of these factors have in essence threatened it existence. The digital media is not confined to one topic or subject but it a combination of different forces. It has become powerful in that it has shaped even our thoughts and made us adapt to popular culture at the expense of our traditions. However, it is simply a channel of expression and with control it comes with many positives aspects but it can be catastrophic if left unchecked especially to family stability.