By Ben Rowley
June 10, 2012

Kids these days… They’re always face first in one kind of technology or another.

Actually, I’ve noticed quite a few adults are as well.

Adults these days…

Technology and how we should use it is often talked about. Folks are concerned about it being too big a part of life, especially for our kids. And rightly so. We can hurt ourselves if we use it the wrong way.

But some are so afraid of the dangers that they wish it would go away completely, thinking technology itself is inherently bad and is ruining lives. That’s sort of like smashing your thumb with your hammer and then blaming the hammer. Technology doesn’t live, breathe and make choices. It is simply another tool that humanity has created to make life a little easier and enjoyable. And just like with most tools, we can hurt ourselves if we aren’t careful.

The main problem here is lack of training and protection. When it comes to things like fire, knives, guns, riding a bike, playing sports, and countless other things, we take a class, we put on a helmet and take other precautions so we don’t get hurt.

Technology usually can’t hurt us physically, unless you grab a bare wire or something. But it can be harmful to our social abilities and quality of life.

With all technology use there is one question we should continually ask ourselves.

Am I in control, or is it in control of me?

Along those lines, let’s look at some of the most common good and not-so-good uses of technology.

Good: Using a computer for school or work

This is probably one of the most common uses and even more common now for students in our county with the district’s one-to-one netbook program. Technology can make us more productive workers. Jobs – particularly high-paying jobs – increasingly require proficient technology use.

Good: Keeping in touch with friends and family

There are many technologies that help us stay in touch with loved ones.  Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter give us the ability to keep each other updated on things happening in our lives. Although, writing letters carries a lot more weight in my opinion, you lose touch with a lot less people thanks to these tools. Just make sure you keep your profile private, so only those you choose can see it, and don’t post too much personal information about yourself, like contact info, etc.

Not-so-good: Socializing exclusively in cyberspace

Taking tons of pictures of yourself in the mirror and posting online, posting gossip, socializing exclusively online and basically spending the majority of free time in cyberspace is not healthy. This is when technology starts becoming a person’s whole world and reality, rather than just being a small part of it. I’m worried that meaningful, real-life relationships are becoming less common. It’s still important to deal with and enjoy each other face-to-face.

Good: Using technology out in the open

Having a television and computer in an open area of the house and not one in every bedroom is a good practice that encourages family members to do other things besides watch T.V. or mess around on the computer.   There will be arguments and compromises as family members share these devices, but hey, at least we’re having some real-life interactions, right?

Not-so-good: T.Vs and computers in every bedroom

It can become easy for family members to shut themselves off from each other and melt hours away in front of a screen when it is constantly available to them.

Of course, sometimes it becomes necessary to use technology in private.  It’s hard for big sister to write her research paper while baby brother is running around and throwing toys at her. It’s hard for dad to get his prep done for tomorrow’s meeting when little one sees him and constantly begs him to come play.

The key here is accountability. Every situation is different. Some people can self-regulate. They don’t want to spend any more time with technology than they have to. While others can find themselves wasting hours and hours if they are not careful.

There are tools out there that can limit Internet use to certain times of the day or certain time limits. The same tools can also tell you what websites your family members visit and what programs they are using. The same goes with cell phones. I’m not sure you can do that with Playstation and the like, but those are easier to keep in a common room.

But bottom-line, it still comes down to self control and prioritizing time and relationships wisely.

Good: Having an Internet filter

Whether you’re 15 or 55, it’s good to protect your eyes from material that is offensive and destructive. Filters have come a long way in providing protection without being a nuisance. None are perfect, but most will at least keep you and your children from stumbling on to an inappropriate site.

Not-so-good: Not having an Internet filter

Especially in homes where there are young children, it’s unwise for them be on the Internet without some sort of filter. One wrong letter in the web address and they can stumble on something you would never want them to see.

Even for adults, it’s wise to protect yourself. Pornography has proven to be both highly addicting and extremely harmful to family relationships. When you’re addicted, you’re not in control. Keep it out of your life and home.

Good: Knowing when to turn it all off

There’s a great big, beautiful world out there and wonderful people in our lives with whom we are given the opportunity to enjoy it with.  Sometimes we need to put the cell phone in a drawer, let our screens be dark, and enjoy the world and the people around us.  A friend of mine put it this way.  “I use technology for a living, but technology is not my life.”

We all use technology in one way or another.  It is our own choices that make it helpful or harmful to our health and happiness.

I could go on, but I’m sick of looking at this screen.