Posted on: 09.09.2015.

Author: Ana G

Embracing the Online World: 5 Ways Technology Benefits the Family Life

''Device Love'' by Luke Wroblewski is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As a parent, you may feel that your children spend far too much time using technology such as cell phones and computers. Your teen may even roll their eyes at you when you ask them to put their cell phones down during dinner. There is no escaping the fact that technology has impacted almost every aspect of family life.

The Internet and various tech devices have provided families with options that didn’t even exist a decade ago. For example, technology has significantly impacted the way in which families communicate. From texting and Facebook to Skype and FaceTime, it is possible to be in touch with anyone at any time. A poll conducted in 2012 by AARP and Microsoft showed that 83 percent of families considered technology “helpful” in increasing the quality and frequency of communication among its members.

Technology has brought about advances in many other areas of family life as well, including work, education, and child development. The following takes a closer look at some of the ways embracing technology can benefit your family.

1. Work and Finance

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Many families are embracing a digital lifestyle as a way to achieve a better balance between professional and family life. Work used to mean long commutes and being tethered to a desk from nine to five. Digital technology, email, and remote access connections make it possible to work from anywhere with more flexible hours.

More and more employers are offering their employees the option of telecommuting. Working from home allows families to spend more time together and can save thousands of dollars a year in transportation and childcare costs.

Technology also has substantial advantages in the area of household management. For example, more and more people are turning to the convenience of the Internet for banking, shopping, and paying bills. Parents are also taking advantage of mobile apps to help track budgets and manage family schedules. 

2. Communication

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Digital technology makes it easier than ever for families to stay in touch despite hectic schedules that involve work, errands, and the kids’ extra-curricular activities. Parents and children can check in with each other throughout the day with a quick call or text. Parents also get the peace of mind of knowing where their kids are at all times and that their children can reach them quickly in the event of an emergency.

Many families also use technology to strengthen and maintain bonds with grandparents and other relatives who may live farther away. Parents and children can keep each other updated instantly through email and various social networks. Some families are even creating their own websites and blogs as a way to share pictures and important family milestones. 

Many parents, especially those with teenagers, struggle with getting their children to open up about aspects of their daily life. Social media accounts, such as Facebook and Instagram, can give parents insight into the people, places, and events that are important to their teen. Technology and social media can also be a channel for opening up a dialogue between parents and kids about events affecting our world.

Technology also makes communication possible for many individuals with special needs. Adaptive technology makes is possible for people with speech, hearing, vision, and mobility challenges to engage with family, attend school, and work.

3. Education

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Technology gives us access to vast amounts of information any time of day or night. Not that long ago, our fathers would stay up-to-date on world events by buying newspapers. Our mothers would get new recipes by copying them down from books and magazines they found in the library. A school term paper typically meant hours at the library pouring through card catalogs and stacks of books. Digital technology, virtual libraries, and various apps give us access to instant news alerts and other information 24/7 without leaving home.

Educational technology and e-learning are becoming more popular by the day. Students are able to take courses online thanks to technology that allows them to upload homework and interact with fellow students and teachers through chat rooms and online forums. Online education has also made it very simple for students to receive personal attention from qualified teachers, and for the parents to track academic progress of their children online. Parents are also benefiting from online learning that makes it easier for working adults to pursue college degrees.

The digital age is even changing many aspects of the traditional classroom. Teachers are able to use computers, projectors, and specialized whiteboards with touch screens to make lessons more engaging and interactive for students.

4. Development

''20111105-student2-2'' by Devon Christopher Adams is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What may appear to you as mindless screen time may actually contribute to your child’s mental and social development:

  • Video games require a great deal of manual dexterity and may increase your youngster’s hand/eye coordination.
  • A number of apps and computer games are available to enhance reading and phonics skills or even help your child learn a second language.
  • E-books and online libraries can expose your child to new worlds and encourage a life-long love of reading.
  • Various apps and games can help your child learn numbers, shapes, or improve their skills in more advanced mathematics.
  • Blogs, websites, and social media sites can help your child develop social skills by allowing them to communicate easily with family and peers from all different backgrounds and cultures.
  • Technology can make your child more prepared for school. Not only do apps and games teach basic skills like reading and math, but they also teach high-level skills such as problem-solving, strategy, and critical thinking that are essential to academic success.
  • Gaming teaches kids skills such as focusing and paying attention to detail. These skills can help them both in school and later in life.
  • Most games and apps require the user to successfully complete one level before being allowed to move on to the next. This can help teach your child the value of persistence, competition, and motivation.
  • Technology encourages children to broaden their horizons. Many kids discover an interest in a subject such as history or geography through an online video or game and go on to do research into the subject. 
  • Technology can help your child discover hidden skills and creative talents. The Internet is a forum for many forms of self-expression such as writing, video, and music. By exposing your child early on to the many possibilities available with today’s digital technology, your child may develop interests and talents that lead them to their future career.

5. Entertainment

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Technology provides us with an almost endless array of family entertainment options. Our favorite music, television shows, movies, or games are available at our fingertips through streaming services and mobile apps. The vast array of entertainment selections can even help bridge generation gaps within families. You can bond with your teen over a favorite movie from when you were their age or try your hand at their favorite game.

If you are not a major technology buff, you may feel a little intimidated about using some of the gadgets and gizmos that seem so easy for the younger generation. Here are some tips that may make going digital a little easier:

  • You can try using a tablet to play online games with your kids. Tablets are more portable than laptops and kids typically prefer them over other mobile devices.
  • Look for games that you feel are fun and age-appropriate, and make a point of learning them together with your child.
  • Make it a point to play games with your kids more often. For example, you can try scheduling a weekly family tournament surrounding their favorite game.
  • Remember to be patient, and be willing to allow your child to be the teacher. Letting your youngster share their expertise can be a huge confidence booster.

Final Word

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As parents, we tend to be very concerned about the negative aspects of technology. Of course, there are certain risks involved in sharing our lives online that young children and teens may not fully understand. That is where we, as parents, must educate and guide our children.

Technology creates opportunities for parents to discuss critical issues with their children such as balancing privacy with the parental need to stay informed and the importance of being a good online citizen. By understanding technology and engaging with your children online, you can help steer your children through the potential pitfalls while enjoying all the advantages that the digital life has to offer.