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Family tech: the agony and the ecstasy

 

Dell Inspiron All-In-One 2320 Touch

You might win one of these (Dell Inspiron One 2320 Touch).

Thanks very much to Dell for sponsoring this post. Have a look at Dell’s new Inspiron One 2320 Touch, then leave a comment for a chance to win one! Details at the end of this post.

The giveaway has closed, and the winner has been notified via email. Thank you to all who entered.

Most of us have gone far enough down the personal- and family tech rabbit hole to admit that our modern, technology-enhanced way of life is a double-edged sword. We (and our kids) can do things, learn things, and make things we never could before computers, hand-held devices, and the Internet. But we also feel the strain of disconnection, screen time addiction, and information overload.

What to do? How to balance it all?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how technology both enhances and complicates my family life, and I would be lying if I said I have it all figured out. As the Internet, mobile devices, and social media become an integral part of everyday life, even distinguishing “technology” from everything else starts to seem odd. For example: “online shopping” used to be a thing. Now it’s just “shopping.”

Here are a few pro/con scenarios to get you thinking (and hopefully talking), along with a few tips to help you grab the digital reigns in your family:

Entertainment

Pro: Regular, talented, creative (or just enthusiastic) people can play music, make videos, and write stories, and share them without having to contend with the recording-, entertainment- and publishing industries.

Con: It’s harder to control what and how my kids watch and play, given that they can now “consume entertainment” on so many different devices, and through so many different channels.

Tip: Each device you let into your life increases the number of “media points” you need to monitor in your family. For example, if your family collectively has a TV, two computers, a Wii, two mobile phones, an iPod, a Kindle, and a tablet, that’s nine “places” people can watch media and/or buy stuff. Keep this in mind when you’re in the market for a new Internet-connected device.

Shopping

Pro: There are so many pros to online shopping I’m not sure where to begin. Anything that keeps me out of my car and/or a big box store is a pro in my book.

Con: Easier shopping opens the door to impulse purchases (for those holding credit and debit cards) and “can’t we buy it on Amazon?” whining (for those not yet old enough to wield plastic purchasing power).

Tip: Unsubscribe from the daily deal services and don’t let your favorite shopping sites “remember” your credit card number. Reintroduce a little effort and inconvenience into online shopping so you have a moment to think before you buy.

Education

Pro: Instant access to a world of knowledge and skill, giving our kids an unlimited source of inspiration.

Con: Instant access to a world of knowledge and skill, giving our kids a false sense of mastery.

Tip: Be involved in your kids’ online learning. When they research something online, encourage them to go beyond the Wikipedia entry and the first two Google hits. Ask questions. Challenge them to form their own opinions. “Sure, that’s what Wikipedia says, but what do YOU think?” Spouting facts isn’t the same as learning.

Productivity

Pro: I am undeniably more organized because my iPhone has turned my calendar and to-do list into something I can use and keep with me all the time.

Con: With an unending stream of email and social media updates, I could easily spend three hours a day just managing the flow.

Tip: Give lots of thought to how, when and where you step into the social media/Internet stream. There are many ways to bookend your time online with the help of a device or a routine. Set a timer. Only check email during the 30 minutes your kids watch Dragon Tales. Only email from your computer, not your smartphone. Only tweet from your smartphone, not your computer.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you enjoy the best technology has to offer without letting it take over your life?

This giveaway will run until Friday, October 28th at 11:59 p.m. EDT and is open to all U.S. residents. A winner will be chosen at random using Random.org from all eligible entries. Each reader has two chances to win by  leaving a separate comment on each of my Dell posts (there will be one more next week), and Dell posts by other bloggers participating in this campaign (you can find those posts at the Family Tech topics page). One comment per person, please. The chosen winner must respond within 48 hours of notification to claim their prize. Good luck!

The giveaway has closed, and the winner has been notified via email. Thank you to all who entered.

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