by Kevin Gilmartin
I’m a digital kind of guy – always have been. Gadgets and tech have always fascinated me; I think I’d actually willingly surrender myself for assimilation by The Borg. Resistance isn’t just futile – it’s also no fun!
When I became a dad for the first time in 2007, the biggest impact it had on my daily life was keeping up with my digital world. In addition to blogging here and on our sister blogs, I run a personal blog about my own jumbled thoughts on Social Media, and two collaborative blog/magazine sites about geeky entertainment and politics respectively. I have Facebook, Twitter & Google+ accounts, all with their own uniquely crafted networks with whom I engage for various reasons, and I get all my world news and news related to my hobbies from the internet. I live my life online! I may have been born in to Gen-X, but I live like a Millenial.
Children came along and suddenly I was spending a hell of a lot more time unplugged. It’s a balancing act, and it’s one faced more and more by digital dads in the online age. So here are my top tips to make keeping up with your online world a little easier:
- Mobile Mail
Basic stuff this one. If you’re anything like me you receive a ridiculous number of emails every day from various mailing lists, blogs, shopping sites etc.
Set up email on your smartphone and, if you have option, set it to delete mail from the server when you delete it from the phone. Hopefully, that way, if a couple of days pass before you get to your computer again you won’t have over 100 emails waiting for you to wade through.
- Compute on the Commute
Not ideal if you drive to and from work, but if you have a bus or a train journey in the morning it can be an ideal time to catch up on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or news sites. The temptation to grab a quick snooze on the train is great, especially if your kids are young and still wake you up during the night; don’t surrender to it!
Of course, this tip requires a mobile or handheld device capable of using the mobile internet, but if you consider yourself a Millenial (we’re not allowed to say Digital Native anymore, apparently) you’re probably the kind of person who doesn’t leave home without your charger.
- Google Alerts & Google Reader
When you do get the time away from the kids to sit down in front of a PC or or your tablet, you need to economise that time. You never know when the little angels are going to yell “DAAAAAAD!!!” at you from somewhere that’s not quite the safe place where you left them.
Every minute is precious so don’t go hunting for your news, let it come to you! Get yourself a Google account and set up Google Reader with RSS feeds from your favourite sites. Have all the latest updates, from all your favourite places, in one easy location.
Use Google alerts to search for your favourite terms automatically and return results directly to your Google Reader page; filter them by relevance, date or various other options to save yourself a heap of time.
- Teach your kids
I’m not talking about maths, or language or any of that other stuff they’ll get at school. I mean the important stuff, like which three numbers to press to get the Disney channel on and how to work the DVD player. Seriously, you teach the little tykes how to put the disc in shiny side down and press sideways the triangle button, and you’ll open a whole new world of peace and quiet.
Now, I’m not advocating plonking your children in front of the TV all the time but as every busy parent knows, sometimes there’s just no choice. While they’re watching their DVDs you can get on with email, catching up on news, or whatever you like.
Of course, you might want to lock away the “mummy and daddy” dvds – you want your kids entertained, not traumatised.
- Go analogue once in a while
I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Even having followed all of my previous tips and having your digital activities down to a nice flow around parental responsibilites, sometimes you just have to turn it all off and relax. Life online is fun, but when keeping up with it all starts to feel like a chore it’s time to unplug for a while.
Go to the cinema (a real one, not NetFlix) with some real, flesh-based, offline friends. Sit in the garden and read a book or a magazine (no, not on your Kindle, a real paper one!). Or even better – why not take the kids to the park?
How do you balance your online life with family? Tell us in the comments section!