Monday, April 20, 2009

Keeping Your Family Close In The Face Of Techno Trends

by Jacob Duchaine

In today's world of deteriorating family values and decreasing real world social interactions, establishing and nurturing family values and bonds that were once standard is becoming more and more of a challenge. I'm sure no parent likes the idea that their children may grow up lacking a strong familial bond, but if you let yourself simply surrender yourself to the idea that it's simply the new way of things then that's how things are going to be.

Instead you should realize that while the old ways may be going out the window, it's your place to bring in the new way, and there's no reason that the new way of things can't include close family bonds, even in the face of a new age of electronics.

I can think of at least three major ways you can bring your family closer together, even in the face of the growing techno trends. The first of the three ways is to adapt, and work to help family bonds survive in the new age. The second way is to preserve. It may seem old school, and they may hate you for it while it's happening, but nine times out of ten they'll love you for it later. The third way is to teach. Too long the youths have been considered the world's computer savvy people. The fact that you've been around longer only means that you have had longer to learn about these things, and if you can be the one to teach them about technology, that's an opportunity to shape how they interact with it.

Adapt Your Family Functions to Technology

It's been said a million times a thousand ways. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Your family is moving into the future. You cannot keep yourself or your family in the past, and any effort to do so will make you seem out of date.

If you want to adapt, learn what the other members of your family are doing on the computer, and you do it to. Don't just do it, like it. Get good at it and make it serve your needs like it does for everyone else. You may think that since you've never done it before, you don't need to do it now, but the reality is that while you may not need it, you may find you like it, and even if you don't it will give you something in common with the more technological of your family's members.

In your efforts to adapt, you will no doubt come across the social networking sites. Use these especially, because they are in fact the heralds of something greater, and getting to know them will help you more than the current can show. Use the social networking sites not only to watch your children, but also to communicate with them, and organize your family's daily living. Integrate technology into the way your family functions.

Use social networking to organize family events. If there's a birthday party, a play, a family outing, or anything else, mark it online and invite the appropriate family members. This will not only help the family members remember, but will also make them feel like the family life is perfectly integrated with technology.

I'm sure you can think of other ways to adapt your family values into the technology age. Use Twitter to keep up with each other. Run a blog of major family events. Maybe even require that a child visiting a friend’s house, a summer camp, or some other location away from home, tweets at least once each day.

Preserve Key Experiences In The Face of Technology

While it wouldn't be wise to try to ignore technology, and I suggest adapting yourself and your family structure to technology, there are some things that can only be preserved. These are things that can't be done online. Things that you can either save, or let fade away. Things like eating dinner together, going to the park, camping, or a multitude of other vital experiences.

While it may sometimes seem tempting to let your family scatter through the house while eating dinner, you may require that every family member eat dinner at the table, as a family. This will provide a family ritual that you all do together, which will help create a sense of family bond if practiced over months and years. Do not teleconference your dinner. It's not the same thing.

Especially when your children are young, take them to the park. Some parents today essentially let the television and computer raise their young children, but the reality is that watching a park on television will never have the same emotional effects or health benefits as being taken by your parents to a real outdoor park to play on the swings and roll in grass. You just can't digitize real life.

Take your children camping. I know that a lot of parents have taken to the idea of RV camping, but it's my opinion that an RV is a bad plan. RV's have electricity, and if there's electricity your children are likely to want to bring and use their electronics. When you go camping, don't let your children bring electronics. No laptops, no blackberries, no cell phones. The adults should have cell phones for emergencies, but should not use them unless someone is hurt. Do not make business or social calls while camping for any reason.

Once again, I'm sure you can think of many other family traditions to preserve. Reading bedtime stories, family outing, things your parents did with you when you were young. Maybe you want to teach your daughter to bake, or maybe you want to have your son build a table or a shed with you. They may be resistant while it's happening, even after it's happening, but the truth is that later, maybe years later after they've grown up, they will love you for it. I know I do.

Teach Your Children About Electronics

Children have in general gotten a reputation for being more tech savvy than adults. Adults have been in general considered resistant to technology as they tried to preserve old things like pencil and paper that they were used to. Don't let yourself be the resistant adult, because if you are it will take away some of your authority as your children subconsciously realize that you're out of date.

Instead, learn about new technologies before your children. Tell your children about the technologies before they've gotten into them. This will be easiest if you have young children who haven't yet gotten into Twitter or Facebook. Teach your children about these services yourself, and it will make you seem up to date, and will keep your children's opinions of you higher than it might be if they think you live in the past, and will help you when it comes time to teach your children to moderate there use of technology.

Further Reading

There are lots of sources for inspiration in carrying out the tips in this article. I've included only a few of many article's you may want to look into. If you're looking for ways to integrate technology into family life, you'll find many of the articles in Family Tech Report useful. If you're looking for some ideas of family rituals to preserve, you should read an article by Mary Ann. If you're seeking to learn about technology... well I think if you want to learn about technology you should start by going out and experiencing it if you haven't yet. Get a Twitter, a Facebook, or a MySpace account or start a blog. Try to use technology daily to learn it for yourself, and don't let yourself feel hopeless if you don't know what you're doing, but instead push on until you know what you're doing.


Jacob Duchaine is a writer and student. He runs and writes the growingly popular blog, Blogging Guy, which aims to help guys interact with web & world.

5 comments:

  1. Excellent post!

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  2. Isn't it? I met Jacob through Problogger's 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge. He was volunteering, and I thought it would be fun to feature a new voice on my blog for a change.

    Recent blog post: Keeping Your Family Close In The Face Of Techno Trends

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  3. I show and explain to my 6 years' old daughter what I blog about every now and then. But I cannot agree more that we need to preserve the real-world fun as much as explore the virtual one.

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  4. Greetings,

    Thanks a lot for the complement. I'm always glad to hear that people enjoy reading my writing and agree with my ideas.

    Showing your 6 year old what you blog about is a good first step. Maybe when she's a little older you should set her up a social networking account or two and help her learn to use them. As I mentioned in the article, teaching your children the ins and outs of technology will help them feel like you're up to date, and will increase the weight it holds when you tell them something to do with technology, like "you've been using this a little to often recently" or "don't invite people you met on the internet to visit you." Getting your children to understand that you know what you're talking about in the realm of technology can be a vital step in mentoring and protecting them in the digital realms.

    Thanks for the comments,
    Jacob Duchaine

    Recent blog post: Making Money Blogging

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  5. That's a very good point you make, Jacob, about increasing your credibility. But in addition, it makes it easier to teach "safe computing skills" - it opens the door to meaningful dialogue with your kids about what's okay and what's not when it comes to social media. It enables you to have timely and relevant conversations. For example: "Sexting" is a hot issue right now, and it would never occur to the technologically inept parent to ask the right questions of their child. Even a child who doesn't have a cell phone is at risk of being victimized by a friend - "just joking around" - in the locker room. A few years ago, it was "the choking game." And there's always "cyber-bullying" (as if the real-world, playground bullying weren't bad enough!). I think you really HAVE TO develop your skills and keep up to date with what's going on in your kids' lives - if not stay one step ahead. It's our job to guide, and we can't do that if we're trailing behind.

    Recent blog post: Chores: to Pay, or Not to Pay?

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