By Heath Kull Many families today struggle to find a balance between being connected to each other and the hectic demands of today’s fast paced world. This is understandable as we are all busy and we all are seemingly attached to our smartphones and other devices on a fairly consistent basis. It is easy to be so connected to the information world that we, by default, become disconnected from those in the room with us; even when those in the room with us are our children. Despite the inevitable arguments that will be offered, I believe that our devices allow us to be in our comfort zone whenever we pull them up to our faces. I can hear the cries of, “that’s not my comfort zone! I need it for work!” already. The truth is though, that it is indeed our comfort zone. Our devices allow us information without interaction and, somewhat conversely, interaction without the messiness of actually talking to people on any terms other than our own. “Didn’t see your text” “Service is spotty” “Must have gotten stuck in my outbox” “I prefer to text message” All of these represent our ways of dictating the terms of interaction with others. I’m not sure that would work in real life and in face to face interactions. “I’m just going to ignore you while you wait for an answer from me to your question.” “Sorry. My hearing went out for a minute.” “I don’t feel like speaking to you anymore.” “Write down your thought and allow 5-7 business days for a response.” None of these are altogether plausible and all would be considered rude; or at least impolite if offered in person. (Obviously the second one takes on a far more sincere tone when uttered by one with hearing aides, but…) Like I said, devices allow us the opportunity to stay in our comfort zone. The only problem with that, though, is that it keeps us out of our growth zone. Growth is never really comfortable and being comfortable never really leads to growth. This concept is particularly true in families. Everyone can be in the imaginary world on their devices and quite comfortable while the relationships within the family cease to grow. I encourage all families to find a time for growth and allow some time for comfort. “Device free dinners” or “Device free game nights” can allow relationships to grow between those spending time together and allow a retreat to respective comfort zones after the activity. (And the adults can’t claim, “I need my phone for work!”) If families can learn to balance their comfort zones and their growth zones, the family stands to be more connected to each other and stronger as a result.