Yes, I finally got a smart phone. Steven and I are Apple people, so we got iPhones (also, the 3G iPhones were on sale). While I am falling in love with my new toy, my love/hate relationship with technology keeps playing tug-of-war with my mind. While I love the instant gratification of a smart phone, I hate it when people are attached to their phones, constantly checking them, sending texts, etc – particularly when you are trying to talk to them. I’m still a believer in real-time, face-to-face communication over the virtual kind. I am also concerned that increased social technology is creating a generational gap. (I mean, I actually have to call my grandma because she doesn’t text, email, or facebook.) You can see how easily older generations can get marginalized socially.
So, I decided to take stock of all the technological devices in my house and examine how they improve my quality of life and my relationships with people.
iBook G4 - My trusty ole’ laptop. I love this thing. If my house were on fire, after grabbing my kids and husband, I’d grab this. It has all my writings on it, and is my gateway to information and to the world. I must admit, I probably spend too much time on it, though. When my kids are like, “Mom! Get off your computer and play,” I know it’s time to shut it down. (Although usually they say, “Mom! Can I play on your computer?”)
iPod nano – Like it. Mostly use it when working out. Sometimes use it in the car or at the grocery store. Though I don’t use it that much, I really think the iPod has lots of potential for improving quality of life just because it holds music. I want my home to be a place of music (I grew up in a musical family and it was so much fun). I want my kids to appreciate music, to recognize different kinds of music and different artists, to enjoy singing and playing instruments. If I did a better job of playing my iPod around the house, I might value it more. (For the record, we actually have 2 iPod nanos – one is mine and one is my husband’s. However, he recently got an iPod for work and moved all his music to it, so our plan is to give one of the nanos to our 5-year-old. I just think it’s a little over-the-top that we have 3 iPods in the house!!!)
iPad – Okay, so it’s technically my husband’s, but it’s pretty cool. I’d take my laptop over an iPad any day, though, but that’s because I’m a writer and I need something that can do word processing. The iPad is great for kids. It’s just their size, and mine love playing games and watching movies on it. It’s easy to get addicted to, so while it’s a fun item to have, it’s best to give your kids (and yourself) time limits on it. Our iPad has caused arguments when both kids want to play at the same time.
Wii – This is a pretty valuable piece of technology. I can exercise and play fun games with it. It’s really good for kids, too, although there is a limited number of games for younger ages (mine are 5 and 3). It encourages social interaction. We love Wii family night where everyone takes turns playing and we have played it when we’ve had friends over. Truly this is one of the few pieces of current technology that promote real-life relationships and camaraderie!
PS3 – I’m not a video game player, but my husband enjoys playing games on this occasionally. Mostly we use it to get Netflix and to play blue-rays. We really love the streaming version of Netflix, so to me the PS3 is a pretty good gadget. However, you can do Netflix using a Wii or through a blue-ray player. You can also get on the web and access Hulu and similar sites with the PS3.
Blue-ray Player – I still haven’t figured out how blue-rays are really better than DVDs. My husband says that the picture and sound quality are sharper, and he really prefers blue-ray discs over DVDs. Some of the players can connect to the internet, also, allowing you to access Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Cinema Now, and the like. All of those things can also be accessed through a computer, too, and some computers (with a VGA output) can be connected to a TV. To me, you don’t need both a PS3 and a blue-ray player.
VCR/DVD player – This has come in handy as we still have a few old VCR tapes that the kids like to watch. Also, this is the only way we record stuff off TV since we still don’t have a DVR.
TVs – We have 3 in the house and one in the garage. Our smallest TV is a flat-panel 23(?)-inch. It is in my bedroom. During most of our marriage, Steven and I have had a TV in the bedroom. I still have mixed feelings about it, but it helps Steven go to sleep, and we’ve actually found several shows that we like watching together at night. The PS3 is connected to this TV. Our middle-sized TV is a 32-inch (non-flat panel/screen) in the living room, and it is connected to the VCR/DVD player and the Wii. Our largest TV is a flat-panel 46-inch in the bonus room. We like to use this one for family movie nights and watching sports. The blue-ray player is connected to this TV. (The one in the garage is a 19-inch just sitting around because I refuse to put TVs in the kids’ bedrooms.)
I grew up in a house with one TV. We just learned to share it. We had one VCR, one computer, one record player, one cell phone. We had several cassette decks/radios as my brother and I each had one in our room, plus the family cassette player. And we got along just fine! I am floored at how much technology is in our house, and how we just keep acquiring more! It is a challenge to raise children in the digital age, because while I want them to be able to use some of these items for both educational and social reasons, I also want them to value just regular old play, physical toys, the outdoors, and face-to-face relationships.