According to a study from The NDP Group, there are more than 500 million Internet-connected devices in American homes with an average of 5.7 app-enabled devices per household. The result is a change in family dynamics: Smartphones and tablets have altered the way both kids and adults work, play and communicate. But what’s the bottom line for technology and family life? Does such connectivity help or hinder?
Here are five ways new devices offer real benefits:
As noted by Dr. Joanne Orlando, technology offers huge value for families when it comes to staying connected, especially at long distances. FaceTime, Skype and other video chat services have evolved to the point where family members across the globe can connect on a daily basis. Young children can establish relationships with grandparents they’ve never seen in person, while parents away from home can check in with their kids every night.
When it comes to education, technology and family life have harmoniously converged. Parents can now teach children about the value of staying safe online and communicate essential principles, such as not posting personal details or photos showing their address or the name of their school. There is also a host of great learning applications for children of all ages, as well as adults, many of which are available on multiple platforms for little to no cost. What’s more, function-specific devices like eReaders are a great way to enable education without introducing other, more distracting content.
All too often, families focus on the “app” and “Internet” aspects of mobile technology and forget that their devices are also ideally suited for quick and efficient communication. Beyond phone calls and emails, families can set up group text messages or send each other quick photos just to say “hi.” They can arrange meeting times, ask for favors or send out reminders easily; it’s better to know that you’re out of milk thanks to a quick text rather than getting all the way home just to turn around again.
According to The Modern Parent, technology can empower families to create. This could be something as simple as creating memories together by playing a quirky little app on a long rainy day. Children now grow up in a world inundated with technology and, as a result, have an inherent grasp of tablet and smartphone use that most adults lack. Kids are constantly discovering new ways to communicate and express themselves online. Rather than sidestepping this issue, parents can learn a great deal about the real impact of Internet-enabled devices by taking the time to understand which apps matter to their children and familiarizing themselves with them.
Finally, technology can help families react more quickly in case of an emergency or natural disaster. Worried when your teenager isn’t home on time? Send them a text to confirm they’re fine, and if they don’t respond, it’s possible to locate them via GPS. Need help away from home? Even locked smartphones still let you place emergency calls. Technology not only empowers families to more easily relate, but can also help keep everyone safe.
When it comes to technology and family life, balance is key. Too much of anything is never good, and sensible limits on screen time and downloads only make sense. With proper oversight and an emphasis on empowerment rather than limitation, families can come out ahead when they’re connected via smartphone and tablet technology.
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