H-NIPOMO

May 24, 2011 10:05 PM by Ariel Wesler

Your Family: Unplugged Part 1

Could you survive without your TV? Your cell phone? How about your computer? Tonight, we begin our two part series "Unplugged."

As texting replaces talking and Facebook takes the place of face-to-face communication, we'll take a look at how technology is redefining quality time for many families. Then, we'll ask one local family to go without their gadgets for five days.

It's easy to picture: A family of four together in the same room, but watching four different screens. Well, our growing dependence on electronic devices is a growing trend, but some therapists say it could impact your emotional health. Tonight, you'll meet the Kendrick family, who volunteered for our challenge.

It's a Monday night at the Kendrick house in Nipomo. Amid the sounds of frogs and crickets outside, inside there's a buzz all its own.

"Chances are if my phone is missing, one of my kids is playing angry birds," Bobby Kendrick said.

With their faces buried in their gadgets, the family room has become an entertainment hub for the Kendricks. They're about as connected as you can get, just not always to each other.

"I'll put my foot down every once in a while and say phones are gone. TV is off. We are sitting down at the dinner table and actually talking," Nancy Kendrick said.

"There are those times where she's like Kaity you need to clean you room and I'm like ok, I'll get to it," Kaity Kendrick said.

And these days, it's a scene played out repeatedly for the modern family.

"That's it! Everybody. Gadgets down, now! Why are you freaking out? Because you're all involved with your little gizmos, nobody is even talking," said Claire Dunphy in the ABC TV Series "Modern Family."

The Kendricks got rid of their home phone, so everyone has a cell phone, part of the family routine.

"For the first half hour 40 minutes of the day, just waking up, it's check your email. Check your Facebook. What's going on on the news," Bobby said.

For Bethany,13, and Kaity Kendrick, 15, their cell phones might as well be a part of them. They couldn't hold out during my interview.

According to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, nearly 60 percent of American families with children own two or more computers. The Kendricks have three, including a laptop they pass around, and six televisions.

There's no doubt smart phones, computers, and the Internet are changing the way American families spend time together. So, we wondered if the Kendricks could go five days without their electronic devices.

Some therapists warn all this technology can put family members in parallel worlds without real human interaction.

"It can create a family that has a sort of fracturing in it," said Marriage and Family Therapist Brad Rudd. "Intimacy and connection require face time."

But some argue these 21st Century lifelines actually keep families together.

"When they get grounded from their phones, it hurts us. We can't figure it out. What are we gonna do? Gosh darn it! Where are they?"

So, as the Kendricks prepare for their social revolution,

"It's gonna be really really hard, just because of my phone," Kaity said.

"Maybe my house will get clean this weekend. Maybe the yard will get some work done," Nancy said.

They'll determine if they can truly go unplugged.

"You do it because you know it's going to hurt a little bit. You know you're going to grow a little bit. You know something good on the other end, you'll look back and say, you know I'm really glad I forced myself into that position," Bobby said.

You can find out if they still feel that way tomorrow night. It's all in part two of our series Unplugged. We'll reveal the results of our social experiment and talk to the Kendricks about what they learned.

We also asked the Kendricks to use their video camera to document their experience. You'll see that tomorrow as well.

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