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Handheld Communication Gadgets Can Be Addictive

  • Saba Khan

The Blackberry, or smart phone, which combines a cell phone with Internet access, and other handheld gadgets have revolutionized the way business people work. But these devices can be so addictive that they are having an adverse effect on families. For producer Saba Shah Khan, VOA's Jim Bertel tells us how this technology craze is changing family dynamics.

Sushil Bansal, a father of two, runs a company in Washington, DC. Thanks to technology, he can take care of much of his business while spending time with his daughters Antara and Saranga. The broadband service on his smart phone keeps him connected with his office and that is how he is able to manage most of his work with the help of his laptop. "These gadgets help me stay connected with my business even though I am outside the office," he told us.

He says these gadgets are useful. For Bansal, they help him in juggling his work and family time, but daughter Antara does not like sharing her dad with his gadgets. She tells him how it makes her feel, "Bad and left out."

Her reaction is not unusual. A study by Rutgers University in the eastern state of New Jersey finds that as technology makes work more accessible, the Blackberry and other gadgets are fueling a rise in e-mail and Internet addiction that is in some cases as difficult to kick as a drug habit.

Roger Rubin, Professor of Family Studies at the University of Maryland, says excessive use of these devices can negatively affect your family life. "The price that children pay, essentially, is emotional neglect and sometimes even physical neglect because nobody is there to embrace you, to wipe away your tears when you are crying because they are busy on a computer, they are busy with their Blackberry, [or] they are busy and totally consumed with their career or work."

Jeff Buhl and Heather Acord both like to stay on top of technology and say their Blackberries are essential. Buhl admits that he has been caught e-mailing at inappropriate times. "I am sure you have been at a family function when it stopped being fun, so that might be the time to check your e-mail or respond to that message that you got yesterday. Yes, I'll do that."

Rubin says that using your Blackberry at the dinner table, during vacations and when spending time with children are alarming signs. Like any addiction, experts believe the user has a choice: access to the office 24 hours a day, or spending quality time with your family.

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