Smart Phone Addiction: Is your family hurting because of technology?

We tracked a Maryland family's surprising usage
Posted at 10:39 AM, Sep 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-26 07:10:30-04

We have them with us in the car, always in our pockets and even in the bathroom, smart phones are becoming an extension of our arms.

More studies say this is bad for kids and teens.

According to a UCLA study in 2014, kids who look at a screen too often lose the ability to read emotions.

Other studies say technology keeps kids from growing socially and shortens their attention span. 

We followed one family in Bel Air for a month, tracking their usage, and the results were pretty surprising.

"We have three kids and so we're going in a lot of different directions all the time and I think as parents you walk that line between what's convenient for you, what's going to work for your family and what you feel like what might be the right thing to do," Mother Bonnie Van Metre explained her family is very busy.

She and her husband Steve have two daughters, both in high school, and an eight-year-old son. All of their kids are involved in sports, and Steve is an airline pilot, making time together very brief.

Bonnie's most concerned about face time, not the app on the iPhone, but actual face time with her family.

"The more they're on the phone, the more it becomes who they are and their habits, and that is I think ultimately what I'm most concerned about, is having adults that don't know how to find time to fill their day without picking up their phone," Bonnie said.

This is something her husband echoed, "I'd like to see us all kinda cut down on the usage so that we spend more time together, talking together and not up in our rooms."

So we left a camera in their living room for 24 hours to see what they'd do.

Their son, Jake, was on the ipad for about an hour. Steve was on the computer for several hours. The girls weren't in the room much, but when they were, they had their phone with them.

After that, the app BreakFree tells the rest.

On average during the month, Bonnie, Steve and Abby used their phones for about 4 hours a day. Olivia used her phone and Jake, his iPad, for about 2 and a half hours a day.

When I asked the family to guess how long they think they're using electronics, it got a little heated between Abby and Jake.

She felt he was on the iPad for several hours a day, while he insisted he didn't use it that often.

"I do use my phone a lot but I'm not like, I don't like need it in my hand all the time, like I'm fine right now," Abby said.

Olivia, didn't want to comment. They all agreed on the unspoken dinner rule.

"We all do not have our phones at the table so I think that is one thing we've done pretty well throughout the years," Steve said.

"The most important thing that happened with us through this experience was we had a real conversation about how much time we're spending on the phone and the pros and cons of that," Bonnie said.

Bonnie hopes this is a wake up call for other parents to start a face to face conversation.