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Cyber safety question for 2014: Does technology bring your family joy?

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Former Hewlett Packard technology executive, Donna Eckwortzel of Granite Bay, is a mom of two teenagers who recently cancelled the family NetFlix account. “It is difficult to strike a balanced use of devices and media apps,” she said. “So we decided to get rid of those things that do not bring us joy. NetFlix didn’t make the cut.”

The challenge of striking a balance with the role of technology in our lives is a problem that Eckwortzel has been struggling with since she began her career in technology over twenty years ago. “Technology makes things more efficient, that is true,” she said. “But then there reaches a tipping point when the efficiency tools can become all consuming and addictive if we allow it.”

Related reading: Are digital natives starved for attention?

Throughout her career, Eckwortzel found that the more sophisticated the communication tools in the workplace, the greater the creep of scope into her personal life. “Remember when Blackberries were the most prominent corporate gadget? And the expectation was that you would be in constant communication for corporate matters,” she said. “I found myself having to really work hard to establish with my bosses and team members the time of day and days of the week that I would not be accessible for business matters because they would get upset if I didn’t respond immediately to emails.”

Eckwortzel is concerned that our children need to learn how to set similar boundaries, and personal boundary management is not the norm. “We are so distracted by our efficient communication tools, and the personal struggle for me to strike a balance was so challenging, I decided this needed to be a priority at home so my children could experience boundary setting for themselves.”

Tips for parents:

  • Establish criteria for using various apps and devices. Asking the question: “Does it bring you and others joy?” is a good example of a criterion. If turning to technology (media and texting) is a way to pass time mindlessly, deflect resolving problems with friends or family, and avoid uncomfortable feelings with school work or other endeavors, this is not joy. It is an escape that can become an addiction.
  • Set the example. Be honest with your own motivation to rely upon media and cyber tools. When you set and maintain boundaries that put conversations and activities with children and family first, the children can more easily follow suit.
  • Insist on times during the day when the children put down the devices and do other things including outdoor activities. Let them put their own imaginations to work.

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