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Tech Thursday: Put Your Kids on a Digital Diet

Normally on Tech Thursday, we're promoting new technologies. But in the post, guest blogger Daniel Sieberg discusses how to help kids strike a balance between technology and real life.

A father of three teenage boys once living in Atlanta, GA, once confided in me that he rarely talks to his children anymore. Texting is another story—it’s their primary source of communication, even when they’re all in the house together. Sound familiar? More families are increasingly faced with this dilemma of work-school-tech-life balance and it’s never too late or too early to begin addressing it.

As someone who now works for Google in New York City and previously worked as a technology reporter for nearly 15 years, I can tell you firsthand that I’m often living life near the bleeding edge of the digital frontier. But in 2009, when I worked for CBS News as the science and technology correspondent, I realized that I had somehow lost the ability to properly manage my face-to-face interactions and my internet actions.

My wife was calling me “Glow Worm” because my face was always illuminated in bed at night by some screen, my family in Canada were getting treated the same way as my other 1,928 other “friends,” and I was forgetting if I was actually the same person as my online persona. I needed a strategy and eventually my own plan morphed into Take the quiz together and compare notes. It can be illuminating.

Finally, remember that kids learn to use technology at an astonishingly rapid rate. We’ve all seen the toddlers who can flip through iPads or the six-year-old “Angry Birds” superstar or the teenager who can text 800 words per minute.

Some parents are often conflicted with both pride and anxiety. Proud that their child adopted technology at a young age and worried that it could lead to unfortunate consequences. Take a breath here. When the time comes for your child to need technology for school/homework or a job they will figure it out. Why not provide something the screens can’t offer in the interim?

Love your children, unconditionally. Love your/their technology, but never unconditionally. Put them together and seek to find those ideal conditions. There are wondrous benefits to be gained from technology and they can last forever. Kids are only kids for such a short time; don’t just become intimately familiar with the top of their heads.