Tech Talk  

Kids and the internet

The development and growth of the internet and personal computing has resulted in many benefits to society;

There is, however, a growing concern among parents, health professionals, and child advocacy groups regarding the amount of time children spend on their digital devices.

The rapidly increasing usage of digital devices, such as computers, smart phones, game consoles and televisions has resulted in an alarming decline in physical activities, which many experts think may be contributing to the growing childhood obesity epidemic.

There is also much concern that excess digital usage may be having a negative impact on children's social and mental development, especially among younger children.

It's tempting to think that perhaps we're just over reacting due to some kind of a generational cultural bias, much like parents did when rock and roll hit the airwaves for the first time; however, mounting evidence would suggest otherwise.

Some of the most current research done on the impact of increasing exposure of children to digital media have suggested that children between the ages of 1-5 are most susceptible to potential developmental issues, while those between 5-18 are more susceptible to behavioral issues.

The studies all seem to conclude that increasing digital media exposure also has a potential negative impact on adaptive social skills, sleep patterns and behaviours as well. Interestingly, if your thinking these potential issues are only affecting children, think again.

The studies have shown that adults can also be negatively impacted by excessive exposure to digital media as well. In fact, the world health organization recently announced internet addiction as a disease. Excessive exposure to digital media can have a negative impact on both the life of our children and ourselves.

So, how do we mitigate the potential negative impacts of digital media exposure for our children? Health professionals, educators and child advocacy groups recommend that you limit your children use of digital devices to no more than one to two hours a day.

They also encourage you to use tools that allow you to limit exposure by limiting or restricting access based on time used. These are excellent recommendations that I also use with my own five children, and I can attest that they can be effective; however, in my experience, children learn best by example.

A wise man once said, feed a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and feed him for life.

The most effective way to limit your kids exposure to digital media is to lead by example and adhere to the recommendations yourself and spend more time one-on-one interacting with as a family.


Is an upgrade necessary?

To upgrade or not to upgrade, this is the question.

As newer models of computers, smart phones, game consoles and other computing devices become available, many people want to know if and when their existing ones should be replaced. 

Marketers have done a good job of convincing us that having the latest and greatest is always in our best interest. But is it?

Not necessarily.

Unfortunately, there isn't a simple yes or no answer to this question. The answer is relative, as it really depends on your specific needs, requirements and circumstances more than anything.

There are many factors to consider when determining if and when you should upgrade.

Newer more up-to-date computing devices will certainly offer better overall performance, security and capabilities over earlier predecessors; however, there are some instances of older technology offering better task specific performance in certain situations. 

In such instances, upgrading to the newer technology would result in a performance deficit. And if performing such a task was most important to you, then upgrading would not be advisable, in spite of the overall performance gains.

When trying to determine if you should upgrade, start by making a list of all the things you use your device for or would like to use it for. Prioritize which tasks and features are most important to you and which ones you can live without.

Once completed, make a note of any tasks or features that your current system is unable to perform, or unable to do so to your satisfaction. 

Your next step is to asses any task or feature capabilities issues that you've noted. The functionality and performance of older systems can often be improved significantly by tweaking the settings and ensuring the most current driver and software updates are in place.

Perhaps the biggest limiting factor for most of us in deciding to upgrade depends on our budgets and what we can afford. The frequency cycle of newer device availability has increased, with considerably less time lapsing between newer more improved versions of computing devices.

The cost of having the latest and greatest has become considerably more expensive.

It's also worth mentioning that this higher turn over has also resulted in a faster depreciation cycle as well. Early adopters pay a heavy premium up front and lose considerably more in the depreciation cycle.

It has been my experience that most people do not need to upgrade their systems to meet their current needs and expectations, but can do so by making some adjustments and updates to their system at a fraction of the cost; thereby, extending the useful life of their devices.

The singularity is near

In mathematics, a singularity can be defined as a unique point at which a model of behaviour breaks down and becomes unpredictable.

Similarly, a technological singularity is a point at which technological growth occurs so rapidly as to become unpredictable.

A growing number of highly regarded computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists and entrepreneurs believe that the world on the verge of just such a singularity. The resulting technologies will rapidly advance our civilization beyond comprehension.

Considered by many as one of the biggest proponents of the technological singularity is computer scientist Ray Kurzweil, an inventor, author and director of artificial intelligence development at Google.

In his book The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil predicts that the development of super human artificial intelligence will occur around 2045 and almost immediately trigger this technological singularity.

At that point, humans will merge with machines, multiplying our effective intelligence a billion fold.

As wild and far fetched as this may seem, don't be too quick to discard it as science fiction. Kurzweil is well known for having a high-hitting track record when it comes to making predictions regarding technological growth.

In fact, many governments and large companies regularly utilize his growth prediction charts to plan for the future. Of the 147 predictions Kurzweil has made since the 1990s, he has about an 86 per cent accuracy rate.

Kurzweil isn't the only one predicting a technological singularity. In fact, there are many world renowned scientists and industry leaders making similar predictions, from physicist Michio Kaku to Elon Musk, the CEO of Space-X and Tesla.

The historical time line of human technological advancement certainly adds credibility to the concept of a technological singularity, as it remained relatively flat for several thousand years and suddenly shot straight up in only the last hundred years.

History has repeatedly demonstrated that society often underestimates the pace and development of technological change. The Wright brothers were scoffed and ridiculed by the scientific community in their day, but achieved flight many years earlier than many believed possible.

And The human genome project was initially predicted to take 100 years, but took only 15. Ultimately, only time will tell if Kurzweil's prediction of a singularity by 2045 comes into fruition.

Regardless of whether a technological singularity occurs, I think we can all agree that change is inevitable. From self-driving vehicles to biomedical interventions that increase healthy human life span, technology will continue to evolve and, with it, the human condition.


Don't clean tech in sink

Our computers and smart phones provide us with an unprecedented ability to communicate, share information and access resources, almost instantly from anywhere on the planet.

For better or for worse, information technology has augmented the human condition and has become an integral part of our lives. In fact, the degree that modern society relies on technology is often taken for granted, until, of course, it stops working.

When technology works, we feel empowered, connected and in control, but when it goes bad, and our patience wears thin, it can quickly leave us feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and helpless.

In situations like this, most people instinctively reach out to a friend, family member or professional for help, and are usually up and running again sooner rather than later.

Occasionally, there are those individuals who for whatever reason always feel compelled to take the road less travelled, in spite of being way out of their comfort zones.

While I'm all about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty, the school of hard knocks is not a very forgiving teacher, and doesn't give an A for effort. And, in spite of their good intentions, these folks often end up out of the frying pan and into the fire.

And I have seen some fires. I pride myself on my professionalism, but I've encountered some situations where the measures taken to try to resolve a computer issue was so over the top that it was very difficult to not chuckle.

One such instance involved an older lady who contacted me regarding problems connecting to the internet with her new computer. She had been told by her internet provider that the problem was with her windows and that she needed to have her windows cleaned.

She went on to say that she had hired someone to clean the windows to no avail and that the problem had not gone away. Upon arriving, she walked me around the house to show me that all the windows had been professionally cleaned.

She was a wonderful lady with a great sense of humour and the moment I finished explaining what was meant by windows, she immediately looked at me and we both burst out laughing. And yes I fixed the issue and she still laughs about it to this day.

Another call came from a fellow who explained that his keyboard had mysteriously stopped working after cleaning it.

"How do you clean your keyboard?" I asked

"Why, in the sink, of course," he replied.

At some point, the technology you rely on is going to stop working. You have no control over that, and how you choose to react will determine if it gets fixed sooner or later and how stressful it is.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you do attempt to fix it yourself and make matters worse, don't be too hard on yourself.

We've all been there and done that, sometimes its better to just throw your hands up, have a laugh and call in the cavalry.

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About the Author

Trevor Sharp is a computer-support specialist, and has been helping people with computing issues for more than 25 years.

Trevor lives in Kelowna with his wife and five kids, and owns and operates a mobile computer business providing on-site tech support for home and business customers.

Trevor is here to help your home or business with any computing issue,

Contact Info:

email: [email protected]

website: www.okanagancomputerservices.com

blog: www.okanagancomputerservices.com/blog

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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