Plugged-in world creates tough questions

qanda_header_1How do we best navigate a wireless minefield?

| by Rod Wilson

My company wants me to start carrying a Blackberry. I am worried that this will negatively affect my personal time and lead to them expecting me to jump 24 hours a day. How do I set reasonable boundaries and keep my job?

The world of technology has put us in a position where we need to make decisions that were not even on the table 10 years ago. Some people still speak against technology and refuse to use these “new gadgets;” many of us are in situations where Blackberrys and the like are a requirement of our employment.

We have a responsibility to our employer to carry out our responsibilities with integrity and to be respectful and responsive to those who are in authority over us. Barring situations where we are asked to engage in behaviours that are immoral or unethical, a request to carry a Blackberry is appropriate and should be respected.

Some workplaces take seriously the personal life of their employees and do not expect a 24-7 mindset. When this is not the case there are two options. Speak with your superiors about your lifestyle and circumstances and assure them that, while you are able to work efficiently and effectively, you cannot always be available and you would like to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement. If that does not work out you may conclude that this particular job is not for you because of its intrusion into your lifestyle.

Most of us struggle however, not with what the company expects, but with our own inability to pull away from work and not answer every call and e-mail right away. Our anxiety about being disconnected may have more to do with our addiction to technology and a sense of indispensability than company expectations.

We are very careful about the video games my 12-year-old son plays at home. I just found out he is playing a lot of games at friends’ houses and some of them are not appropriate. How do I control what he plays without losing his friends?

One of the problems with having a 12-year-old is that he is young enough to be told what to do and when, but old enough to decide on his own what to do and when. Many parents who have children this age are stressed, worried and frustrated.

The move from dependence (others tell you what to do) to independence (doing what you want to do as a reaction against others), through to interdependence (working in concert with others to determine what you believe is the right thing to do) is a painful process. Wise parents know the journey to interdependence requires them to provide parameters, guidance, counsel and boundaries so their child learns to make decisions not because he has been told to but because he believes it is right.

It is appropriate for us to prevent our children from engaging in certain behaviours that we believe are not in their best interest, physically, morally and spiritually. In doing so we also need to explain the “why.” Teaching abstention from anything compels us to provide the rationale. What is wrong with this particular video game? What are you concerned about? Why are you establishing rules of this sort? It will also help to explain what your child might say to a friend who suggests a particular game.

One hopes that over time children will modify their behaviour as a result of our influence. More importantly, we also trust that their convictions and attitudes will deepen and become rooted in a godly character so they make appropriate choices. As our children move in this direction we need to be understanding, patient and forgiving.

My 21-year-old spends all his time working or playing video games. He needs a life. I feel like kicking him out to wake him up but my wife won’t hear it.

You can take some reassurance from the fact that at least your son works. Many parents find themselves in a situation where their 21-year-old plays video games all the time and does not have a life.

Those who have not grown up in the video generation can easily forget that we had comparable activities when we were younger. So while there is a part of me that loves waxing eloquent on why more young people are not outside playing road hockey and baseball, the fact is that screens have replaced nets and a mouse has been substituted for a baseball bat.

Many 21-year-olds remain at home because they have no job, no money and no prospects of either. This creates tension for parents as they are torn between care for someone who has nothing and a hope that their child will have some initiative and move on with his life. The fact your son is working is a good sign. Encourage that aspect rather than criticize his gaming.

The term “a life” is an interesting one. What is “a life” for you? For your wife? For your son? Often we do not take the time to sit down with someone to find out what is important to them, what they want to pursue and to help determine whether the absence of interest in “life” reflects inability, confusion, unwillingness or bad attitudes or habits. Maybe your son is tired of playing video games and wishes someone would coach him toward other interests and support him in them.

Kicking anyone out of our home usually says more about the attitude of the kicker than the actions of the one being kicked. While many of us have family members who need to learn consequences for their behaviour, they also need clear communication offered in a loving and caring way. Your son may need to leave, but with both his feet on the sidewalk.

The article above was featured in the special July/August 2010 issue of SEVEN magazine.