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Friday, September 25, 2009

A Dad's Point of View: It’s a Tech World, After All

I love technology. I hate technology. I get so frustrated with technology. All of the above. That’s my generation and definitely me. My friend Marty is a tech wizard, while my wife is still using computers primarily for e-mail. I’m somewhat in the middle with my knowledge and depth of tech use and dependence, though my boys laugh at my attempts to learn anything new. But, it’s hard to resist all we hear about what every new tech gadget has to offer, especially for us men (a.k.a. boys and their toys).

When I get a new tech device, like a digital camera for instance, I am very excited by the purchase and I take it home with pride and eagerness. I carefully place it on my desk where it usually sits for a week or so until I muster the courage to open the box. Then, I take out the various parts of the device, and ask for some help to lift out the user manual. On viewing this lengthy document, in 42 different languages, I sit down discouraged, and place all the pieces and the manual on top of the just opened box, where it will sit for another week or two. A strong drink will finally give me the courage to start the learning process.

What inevitably follows is that I get stuck somewhere in the process and disgustingly pack all the parts back in the box with the full expectation to return it to CostCo, where I always buy such tech stuff, as they have the most liberal and no-questions-asked return policy. Usually, some sanity or maybe pride returns and I either figure it out or, embarrassingly, call the help line where I’m put on hold for four days after pressing 257 buttons on the self-help menu, until I finally get to speak to someone with a heavy accent that I don’t understand, in some country in a distant time zone.

Now, all of the above is sort of an exaggeration. It is usually much worse. LOL (now, I’m testing you). I’m capable of learning new things but these episodes often remind me of a wonderful article I read years ago titled, “Why Can’t They Make It Like a Refrigerator?” It was about the simplicity of buying and using a fridge compared to the struggles, especially when that article was written so many years ago, with buying and setting up computers.

This is where having kids is finally starting to pay off. They grew up with technology and it’s not only part of their everyday vocabulary, but it’s an integral part of their lives, possibly in this boomer’s opinion, to a destructive degree. The notion of playing outside has vanished with my boys, as their play generally revolves around some sort of screen, and there are so many—television, computer, game, cell-phone, etc. The importance of all their screens has even changed the way we punish our kids, as a therapist once advised me. They lose screen privileges as the consequence for poor behavior. The worse the offense, the more screens are prohibited.

My point, however, is that my older son actually can help me now. The down side is that I have to hear his sigh and subject myself to his disdain at his old man’s complete lack of being “with it.” They say all things come around, and this is just how I felt and acted when my parents just couldn’t figure out how to program and use their new VCR.

In all seriousness, I value what technology offers us but I also see a considerable downside. Our jobs as parents become more difficult when we have to monitor and be aware of all the things that can “attack” our children from these tech sources. There are programs we can buy that supposedly limit what our kids can find on the Internet as well as simple ways we can check their recent searches. But, being a policeman in this regard isn’t what I signed up for, but is clearly part of the contemporary job of parenting. It is equal in importance to being aware of any sort of drinking, smoking, or drug abuse. I’m fond of saying that all we can do as parents of teens is do our best to keep them alive, until some sort of sanity hopefully returns.

My next challenge is Twitter and learning to tweet. I’ve been told, along with Facebook, that it’s actually a useful tool to market one’s business. So, eagerly, I googled, found, and then went to the Twitter website. Like the unopened box of the new camera, computer, or other tech device I tend to let sit on my desk, I’ve looked at that Twitter tab for days now. A recent power outage took it away and relieved me of dealing with that one, for now. Whew.

Please visit www.brucesallan.com to contact Bruce and to enjoy the various features his new Web site offers, including contact info for advice and coaching, an archive of his columns, general contact info, links to his published work, photo galleries, and reader comments, plus much more. Bruce Sallan was an award-winning television executive and producer for 25 years. Google him if you really want to know more (e.g. his credits). When his boys were quite young, Bruce left show biz to become a full-time Dad. Shortly thereafter his marriage ended and his wife abandoned their children, leaving the State. Bruce found himself a full-time single Dad, in his late forties, as well as a returning single man to the changed world of cyber-dating. It became a classic “sandwich” situation when he also began to care for his ailing parents. He began writing various blogs on the dating sites he used as well as articles for local publications. The goal of his column, A Dad’s Point-of-View, is to primarily focus on parenting and occasionally other issues from the male perspective. Presently, his column is available in over 75 newspapers and Web sites in the U.S. and internationally. Bruce lives in Agoura, California with his second (and last) wife and two boys, who are 15 and 12. Find Bruce on Facebook and add him as your friend. Just be sure to tell him you saw him here.

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