Modeling Technology Behavior for Our Family

This past week, I read several articles talking about ways families can stay connected and how teens rely on their parents for how to behave on the Internet and with mobile devices.

I am the role model for my nine-year old twins in so many ways, of course, it makes sense that they would follow my lead when it comes to technology. Will they spend time hanging out in front of iTunes like I do, listening to music, buying new songs, updating playlists? Probably.

But will they spend so much of their time texting their friends or updating their status when they get their own phones? Only if my wife and I do. Many parents are upset that their kids spend so much time using their mobile devices when they are supposed to be spending family time.

However…

  • Do you frequently deal with emails (work or otherwise) while your kids are right next to you?
  • Do you frequently take time out to post to Facebook or Twitter when you’re with your family?
  • Most importantly, how would your kids answer those questions?

The truth is, even if I think I don’t use my phone that much, if my kids perceive I do, that’s all that matters. They will learn I don’t truly value my time with them, that it is okay to prioritize our gadgets over our family. As with so many things, if my kids feel that way, whether I think so or not, that is all that matters.

Take some time to open up that discussion with your family. “Do you feel I use my ‘mobile device’ too much?” Maybe you can create a code word to help them remind you to stay with them, a code word you could then use with them when they do the same to you.

Family connectedness is extremely important, but it will take a little work on everyone’s part to help make it special.

It’s the Balance of Technology That Matters Most For Our Kids


There is some research now on the effects of technology and social media on our children. I’ve been tweeting about it a bit lately. It worries me because obviously I care about my children’s ability to function well in society, to develop strong interpersonal skills, to be able to entertain themselves without a screen. But I also know if they are not incredibly comfortable with technology, they are going to fall behind and have trouble. Technology will only play a more significant role in all of our lives as we get older.

I enjoy knowing how my friends are doing via Facebook. I post on Twitter and try to keep up because I need to. I have four email accounts I check frequently. Heck, I get text messages every time someone scores in a Phillies or Eagles game. We have four computers, an iPad, two AppleTVs, two Kindles and who knows what else in our house. Our children are going to spend time in front of a screen.

I know I can help them by setting limits for them. I can help them by teaching them about technology and how to use it and the benefits of it. But it has struck me that the trick will be to teach my kids how to balance the influence of technology in their lives, to be able to have control over it than feel controlled by it.

How many adults do you know who can’t have a meeting without looking at their phone? How many adults do you know who can’t have a meal without checking their phone? Or watch a movie and are checking their friends’ Facebook status or email or Twitter or whatever it is?

Back in the day it was much easier to be in the moment, to experience what was happening when it was happening. Now, it is much easier to distract ourselves, but it is also much easier to not be fully present. By splitting our time, maybe we catch the drift of the movie or conversation and we keep up with what our friends or favorite stars or teams are doing, but there is a price, a toll we pay.

We’re missing the experience, the connection of the moment whoever we are with, whatever we are doing.

None of the best moments in my life happened on my Blackberry. My best moments are those times when I’m somewhere with my Okapis (my nickname for my children) and we are so fully in the moment that nothing else in the world matters. The best times are when my wife and I are somewhere together, fully together, and the world only exists for us. None of those moments happened with a Blackberry in my hand, but with it tucked safely into its holster on my hip, forgotten.

That’s what I want them to understand.

I want them to know how to use technology, to be comfortable with it, but to be able to know there are many times when we need to stop and live in the moment as well. I want them to remember what is happening right now is almost always more important than what is happening on some screen.