Technology has changed the way we communicate, read books, share photos and even — much to the chagrin of kids — monitor grades.
And it seems the number of technological devices and software programs created with the intent of making lives easier grows every year.
Amy and Brian Lane of Beaverdale frequently use laptops, handheld devices and Web-based applications and programs in their daily lives. And because of the world in which we live today, Amy says the couple thought it was important to introduce their three children to technology at a young age.
The Lanes and their oldest child, Kreyton, 11, all have Apple iPhones, and each of the couple’s children also has an Apple iPad. The kids also share a laptop, plus Brian and Amy each have their own laptop — his is a laptop that can switch to a tablet, which is helpful for his job as an architect. Amy also has her own iPad for work.
Amy says the iPads are a lot more convenient to transport than a laptop computer.
“I think they favor the tablet more than they do the laptops,” she says of the couple’s children.
“It’s such an easy piece of technology for kids to use,” Amy says of the tablet. “We started out on computers that were the size of a desk, and now to have that information on a notebook-thin tablet is just amazing. I think one of the things we have fought with our children is my son is going into the sixth grade and many of his friends have Twitter and Facebook accounts, and we just don’t allow that.”
Amy works in education and says she sees the bullying that can accompany social media and doesn’t want to expose her children to that. She says her kids socialize through activities and athletics, and, at this point, social media is something they can save for college.
The Lanes say there could be negatives to technology if it is not monitored or if the family doesn’t have a grasp on it and how it should be used.
“For our family, it’s a positive,” Amy says. “One of the things we’ve seen is that our children are so exposed to technology, and they’re better at it and they teach us about it.”
The ways each of the Lanes uses their devices are different. Three-year-old Lula plays educational games on her iPad, which was a hand-me-down when the family upgraded to a newer version.
“It’s a lot of eye-hand development and mind-hand development and using her finger to trace letters and to play games,” Amy says of Lula’s use of the iPad.
“It is technology in her hands, and she can play with it, and she can maneuver it,” Amy continues. “She models what she sees; she does what we do. It’s a very simple thing for her to do.”
Amy says Lula’s use of the iPad began when they were waiting at the doctor’s office and the toddler became restless. Now she uses the tablet to learn about letters and numbers, be read to and play dress-up games.
All of the Lanes’ children are limited to the amount of time they can use on devices, especially during the school year. The boys received their iPads last year for Christmas. Each receives 30 to 45 minutes a day of use unless the device is being used to for schoolwork to look up math questions or for reading because both boys frequently use the Kindle application on their iPads. The Lanes also installed parent controls on the iPads to control the content their children see.
Carter, the Lanes’ 9-year-old son, likes music and photography, so he uses his iPad to take pictures and edit them, and to create movies, slideshows and other digital art. He’s very inquisitive, Amy says, and researches and finds all kinds of applications for his iPad where he can do various things. For example, Carter doesn’t have a cell phone, but he found an app that will allow him to make free calls and text through his iPad.
Amy says she and her husband approve all app purchases because they control their iTunes passwords. However, sometimes instead of giving their kids an allowance, they’ll give them an iTunes giftcard toward the purchase of apps for their iPads.
Kreyton, the Lanes’ oldest son, uses his iPad to read and to improve his education. He also uses a keyboard with his iPad for school, which allows him to type his notes and improve his spelling. He started using it for research and is learning all of the different things for which he can use it.
She says the couple decided that Kreyton was old enough for a phone when he became involved with more activities and had to be dropped off at different locations than his brother.
“It gives him a sense of independence, yet allows us to stay connected,” Amy says, adding that Kreyton has rules on texting and phone usage and that she goes through his text messages.
As a family, the Lanes use Skype, a free Internet phone/video conference calling system, to stay in touch with family members who live in other states. Amy and Brian also both use Skype for work presentations. She uses various other social media including Twitter, which she thinks is a great way to keep current on topics and news.
Professionally, Amy uses her iPad and a special application on it that was designed by Heartland Area Education Agency, for teacher evaluations. She also uses Dropbox, a free file hosting services that allows her to create a document on one device and access it from another device.
“You can do anything off of an iPad that you can do on a laptop,” she says. “It’s just what you feel more comfortable doing.”
The DeVenney family also is a big believer in the benefits of technology.
Tracy DeVenney, who works at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Beaverdale, loves everything Apple and regular uses her iPhone, iPad and MacBook. She uses her phone daily for texting and email, and enjoys the different applications that are available from the Weather Channel to Pandora Internet radio. She relies on online calendars and other web-based programs for her job.
DeVenney says she got her first Mac in 1992 and can remember her two oldest children, Molly and Betsy, sitting on her lap learning how to play games that the family had purchased because the Internet did not yet exist.
As Steve and Tracy DeVenney’s children got older, the family bought the kids their own computer, and then once the Internet caught on, the girls would instant message their friends through AOL (America Online).
Molly, the couple’s oldest, got a cell phone when she was 14. Betsy got one at age 13, and Luke got his at age 13. Tracy says each kid was a little younger because the couple realized how much easier it was to get in touch with them at sporting events when they had their own phones.
The DeVenneys have an iPad, but Steve mostly uses it for his work. He is a broker, and the company he works for has some specific apps designed for their employees’ use.
“He’s able to work from home and if he’s on the road. He can work anywhere with those apps,” Tracy DeVenney says, adding that her husband no longer even uses a laptop, just his tablet.
Tracy says the use of tablet devices has grown to her children’s careers, as well. Her oldest daughter, Molly, works at a salon in Jordan Creek Town Center. She uses an iPad to share the newest styles and other information with customers.
Middle child Betsy is a student at Iowa State University and volunteers at Blank Children’s Hospital, where she says iPads are frequently used by hospital employees.
Tracy says she stays current on the newest devices and software, especially for her work as a graphic designer.
“I try to keep up on my Mac, especially the software and if there’s any major updates and system software,” she says. “I might not get a new physical computer, but I always do the upgrades on the system.”
She also plans to purchase the new iPhone when it comes out.
Son Luke, 16, is a junior at Dowling Catholic High School. He uses his mom’s laptop for homework and occasionally the family’s iPad. He, too, has an iPhone, like the rest of the family. He also uses a program called Edline through his school, Dowling Catholic High School, to check his grades, test scores and to submit papers and homework online.
The family has some rules when it comes to technology: Phones must be put away at dinner time. When the kids were younger, they had limits on their cell phone activity, but they’ve outgrown those and Luke has no limits on his phone or laptop usage.