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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

When technology overwhelms, pull the plug

Harriette Cole United Feature Syndicate

Dear Harriette: One of my friends messages me from the moment I get home and go online. No matter what time it is, there she is, attempting to talk to me. It feels as if she wants to monopolize my time. I really feel for her, but this is too much. How can I address this without being rude? — Jay, Detroit, Mich.

Dear Jay: Your friend is needy. She needs you more than you need her. While you care about her, you must manage your friendship. Otherwise, you will lose it, which will, at least in immediate terms, be devastating for her.

Your strategy has to include your position with regard to connecting to the rest of the world. When you connect to the Internet, she’s ready to connect to you. That means many things. I have a dear friend who has no e-mail address, no cell phone and is happy. She and I recently talked about the power in disconnection. Interestingly, she espouses that not feeling the impulse to connect to the world at every moment allows you the opportunity to connect to yourself and those you love more fully. I believe she is onto something, even as her concept seems rooted in days gone by. But then I see her and her palpable happiness. She is content within her own being without being perpetually plugged in.

Your friend is at the ready because you are at the ready. Don’t fault her for putting you at the top of her list. Instead, think about why you choose to be so available. At the very least, make yourself invisible, so you can be online without the world knowing it.

Dear Harriette: My children seem to be addicted to video games. As soon as they get home from school, they pull out their hand-held electronics and stay attached for hours. I have encouraged them to go outside to play, but they often choose to stay indoors glued to those tiny screens. What can I do to lure them away? — Renee, Houston, Texas

Dear Renee: You are not alone. Technology is both friend and foe to so many of us. I have long said that in order to enjoy technology, it must be tempered with a healthy dose of humanity. Enter you. What you must do is manage your children’s usage time with their electronics. I am well aware that this is easier said than done, but it is your responsibility.

Give them specific time periods when they can play with their gadgets and when they must do something else. If you have to physically take these toys away and lock them up, do it. Then they’ll know you mean business. Enroll them in sports activities that will get them outside this summer. Go for walks. Plan explorations of your city and neighborhood that allow time for you to enjoy one another. Select books that you all can enjoy and host family read-ins. Don’t give up.