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March 02, 2008

Technology Obsessed Parents

I am one of them, so is my cyber friend Role Mommy - and there are many more... Parents (not their kids) are becoming more addicted to technology, and in need of etiquette to help them find balance. Just today I was reading my BlackBerry on a break from ice skating with my kids. I told my husband that I was checking the time, but really I was just searching for some news updates (I am sooo addicted)...

One of the emails I quickly had a chance to read was from a friend who sent me a link to the New York Times article "I Need a Virtual Break. No Really.." The article was about their writer Mark Bittman who took "a real day off this weekend: computers shut down, cellphone left in my work bag, land-line ringer off. I was fully disconnected for 24 hours".

Then I felt the guilt, I should also be taking a break... Why do I need to check the news and my email on the weekend? How long could I make it without using my BlackBerry or laptop? Or how long could I stay away from my online social networking sites, Techmeme, looking at the listings of the websites in my reader, aggregators like Alltop and my favorite blogs? Is it that I am obsessed with technology or obsessed with keeping up with all the information available online?

I need to ponder this more, but for now I will just blog about it (great start).

How about you?


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Hi Beth,
Thanks for your honest post and reflection on this. My name is Leif Hansen (I'm the managing director of Spark Northwest) and I'm one of the two facilitators for the Soul Tech workshop that was recently shown last week on the Today Show.

One of our participants, Ariel Meadows started her 52NightsUnplugged experiment as a result of our workshop, which in turn was mentioned in the NY Times article you've sited in your post (Ariel was also on the Today Show for the live portion.)

While I do think there are some practical things one can do (i.e. bracket one's tech time with breaks, set some family boundaries, set a power-timer on your wifi , etc) our workshops are really more about facilitating a process that helps people to think about how technology is helping or hindering the achievement of broader life/work goals.

Actually, we've just put together a 7 step e-workbook that takes people through the same process. The steps and exercises covered in the e-workbook are basically to:
(perhaps first idenity what you like about your tech life!)
1. Identifying your challenges with tech
2. Identify the needs trying to get met
3. Develop your vision/goals
4. Finding your focus
5. Finding solutions
6. Turning ideas into actions
7. Sticking with your plan (can be hardest)

I think if people would really take the time to think about what they want from life, and how technology is helping and hindering their moving in that direction, it would be a tremendous first step.

Unfortunately, most of us would rather just turn off our minds, and click on some entertainment. Neil Postman called it "Amusing Ourselves to Death".

Good luck and keep us posted on your process!

I know the feeling about the 'addiction' and can empathize with your concerns. I find myself checking the crackberry at the park, the backyard, or other places when I should be with my family.

The tough part is being the only tech addicted person in my family. My wife likes to tease me about it but I take it to heart.

With the intrusion of technology more and more into our lives, we've got to be thoughtful about the message it sends to our spouses, children, and friends. I want my boys to grow up respectful of another person's time and, therefore, I've got to model that.

My newest crackberry rule - it's always on vibrate. If it buzzes more than twice, I know it's a call and take a look. Otherwise, it stays in the pocket until I've got some alone time.

I look forward to more musings on this topic!

cole - Good discussion on it's own is what BlackBerry/PDA settings should be used while with family.. vibrate is good except it does make a quiet noise. Maybe vibrate while at the park or noisy places with our families (and no need to receive calls). One ring when you need to be reached... Quiet mode when you are at dinner or during family time.

I made the mistake of putting my Blackberry that was set on vibrate in my bedroom nightstand. All night I heard "bzzzzz" as it vibrated against the table. So I always put my phone in another room at night.

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