I'm at Networkshop at the moment, having just given a talk on moving to the cloud, will post about that later.
I'm currently in the closing session delivered by the University of Cambridge on Culture, Communication and Change.
They have carried out an 8 month project looking at the impact of Communication and Information Technology on people.
Today for the first time, young people are entering the world of work from HE having always used computers and the Internet.
Also, those entering retirement have access to low cost computers and high speed internet. Both groups are demanding new things from their environment, but how is our culture changing?
There are concerns and speculation in the press and science on the impact of technology on our ability to think and socialise. A common phrase, is "technology is melting our brains".
The impact of technology on how we live our lives, at home and work, young and old, can only be measured by thorough research. Also, had to be done quickly to react to press speculation.
So, they set out to get a better understanding of the role that communications technology plays in modern life, and also to look at technology use at an international level. Had teams working on the study in the UK, US, China and Australia. Interesting that they used an engineering team to do what was essentially a social science project.
They carried out interviews with experts and thought leaders and a literature review, before doing interviews and diary studies with families as well as a wider on-line survey.
So, what did they find?
Face to face communication is favoured most, and in the UK more than in other countries. 65%.
China prefers IM more than any other country, but largely due to pricing structure.
Children are big users of social networks, but they use them as part of a whole range of methods, using whatever's appropriate for the time. They concluded that communication skills were enhanced, not depressed.
Generally people do not feel overwhelmed by technology.
36% of adults and 43% of young people take steps to consciously moderate their technology use
Technology facilitates many different kinds of communication
4 in 5 people in the UK feel in control of their use of technology
60% people feel they spend too much time using communications technology
1 in 3 people has felt significantly overwhelmed by communications technology which is negatively correlate with life satisfaction
Using technology in an unmoderated way can disrupt family life (eg using mobile phone at meal time)
Lovely quote from one of the teenagers interviewed when she realised how much time spent she spent using technology "it's the Blackberry's fault though"
These are the recommendations they came up,with, lifted from the report executive summary :
Before you can make any changes, you need to understand how you and your family are using technology. Many families who took part in the research were surprised and at times dismayed by their technology habits. Keeping a log of your family's use of technology will help you identify good and bad habits and also changes you may want to make.
Location, location, location
Think about where technology is located in the home. Parents often complained that their children abandoned family time to go on the computer or video game console in their room. Similarly, children reported feeling that they lost out on parents' attention when they were 'quickly' checking up on work in the home office. Keeping computers and consoles in a central location will allow your family to share what they are doing online, or at least all be in the same place while using technology.
Set some boundaries about how, when and where technology is used. Our research showed that rules around technology usage reduced anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. The rules are up to you: try removing technology from the dinner table, organise a family games evening either with or without technology, use parental controls to manage use of social networks or the time spent on the family computer, or agree limits on the number of text messages sent in a day. Just remember, whatever rules are introduced, it's important to talk them through and agree them as a family - and parents sometimes need just as many rules as children!
Be a good example: teach and demonstrate the importance of balance and safety in the way technology is used. It's important for parents to set good examples, so think about your own behaviour. For example, avoid checking your smart phone unnecessarily when with your family. It's easy for children to pick up bad habits from you. In addition, children are using technology at an increasingly early age and teaching safe and responsible use is vital from the outset, it's important to make sure your children are taking the right steps to keep themselves safe.
Find your Balance
Don't be concerned by overly positive or negative hype about communications technology. Every family and individual uses technology differently. We hope that this advice helps you find a healthy balance for you so that you have control of technology and are making the most of all forms of communication whether it's by phone, email, social media or face-to-face.
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