Digital (at-work) vs. Analogue (off-work); balance?

It is ‘half-term’ again here in Cambridgeshire, UK. The children are off school for a week. My wife works in schools, so she is also off for the week. The snow is still on the ground, but it has started to turn to ‘slush’ – its cold and dank outside.

Why is that relevant? Because (a) you may well be ‘enjoying’ the same week, and (b) it makes me think about a “digital versus analogue” life….a choice that my children do not really understand. We have four children, aged 14 down to 9 years, and clearly they have all grown up in the ‘digital world’. Two have a good balance between ‘digital and analogue’…the other two, frankly, do not – it’s a struggle to get them off their various devices. Does that matter?

As a parent, and more generally as a member of society I grew up on the ‘cusp’ of computers in daily life (yes, we had the ZX Spectrum, then in the year that I left, our school received its first batch of PC’s – the BBC Model B with its 64k RAM….BASIC was the language…..and basic it certainly was!!) This means that I remember most of my childhood in Analogue-only. And great it was. We lived on/off our bicycles, going off to find new places – country lanes, rivers, hills and woods. Or playing football for hours until it got dark, “jumpers for goalposts”, before football lost its soul. But, it was all good, clean, and above all health fun – in body of course, getting some exercise – but I would say also in mind. I still go for a long walk with my dogs to ‘clear my mind’ or just to get fresh air. Does it matter that people do not do this so much today?

There is no doubt that our digital world has enriched our lives. It has enriched my life hugely. I have met people whom I would otherwise have never met (mostly on Linkedin), shared discussions with them on Groups, and some I have been able to meet, especially through CoreNet Summits.  I also benefit from being able to enjoy my analogue life, BECAUSE we can work from home using digital technologies.

Should we enforce some ‘analogue’ living though? We have no computers in bedrooms for a start, so they have to get out of that darkened pit of stuff-everywhere that is a teenage bedroom! But more generally in life, what is good for your kids is probably also good for all of us in adult life? To get out and have an analogue life – achieve a balance between digital (at work) and analogue (off-work)….?

I don’t have the answers, but I have collected up the devices, into my study…and kicked the kids out to play like we used to do! Two have gone gladly, one reluctantly, and one is still thinking….but he is 14, and so “you can’t tell me what to do”…even if it IS for the greater good!

Do you have a healthy digital vs analogue balance? If so, how? If not, does it matter? Interested to know…..

Take Care,

Paul ;

St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, UK

6 responses to “Digital (at-work) vs. Analogue (off-work); balance?

  1. A good analogy, Paul. I had a spledid analogue weekend, at the theatre Saturday and rugby match on Sunday. Though more heathy pursuits might have been better for me I did laugh a lot (Noises Off is hilarious) and got my heart rate up (supporting Wales). Such indulgence was available because my own 13 year old was away with a friend in Amsterdam. Whether she explored Anne Frank and Van Gough or kept her head in her mobile I will know when I check her phone bill!
    My hobby horse on this topic is that that work-life balance is a flawed expression. I prefer, life balance. Work is an integral part of life, not something in competition with it. There are many elements in life to keep in balance to achieve fulfilment – about 8 for most of us, and work is one of these. Paul, you have prompted me to pick up the theme in own blog this week. Thanks.

  2. I too grew up in the way you described and there was a joy in simply playing outside and if we look back we were happy. Then computers came along and for me also the ZX Spectrum is where it all began and I discovered my vocation and IT is what I’ve pursued ever since through study and career.

    I’m a keen adopter of technology and in my household it’s me more than anyone else who can’t avoid using one of the many devices we have. Things are however moving at a very fast pace (or I’m getting too old to keep up) and I think there is a need to take a break from it all. My biggest issue is that we’re fed so much information and maybe, just maybe we don’t have to consume it all. But finding the right balance is tricky and if I’d not been reading twitter I’d not have seen someone post a link to this blog article. You can’t win 🙂

  3. We must be the same age Paul – computers arrived in my last year at school – but unlike you I remember much of childhood as hours of spent sitting around at home reading and reading and more reading, watching TV and making things. Friends lived miles away and although of course there must have been some halcyon summer days, woods and fields were ‘out-of-bounds’ and roaming afar was discouraged for safety’s sake. Boredom was the rule. I think my teenage kids have a richer life because of their access to the digital world of information, games, videos, TV, film and, above all, friends on-line and on-phone, and they seem to know how to mix it with time out with friends and sport when school work allows – which often it doesn’t. My theory is that teenage lethargy is a perenial feature of being teenage rather than a consequence of being brought up in the digital age. I do think it is important to encourage/force kids into physically active and socially interactive pursuits but wasn’t it ever thus? I well remember my Dad’s urging to “Turn that TV off” although incidentally, I was never told to stop reading. Curious.

  4. Great article, we also suffer the joys and angst of digital vs. analogue in our home. We find doing family activities creates balance, whilst its a struggle initially to convince them it will be good. I suppose we were the same when we were growing up, not wanting to do the same as the grown ups. We also give them choice TV, games consul or computer time for set period a day. It may seem harsh, hopefully it will allow them to develop a more varied, balanced perspective and interests that don’t require digital interaction. There will always be a healthy tension between child and parent, in the same way as digital vs. analogue.

  5. Hello Paul… your spot-on observations resonate well with me and I’m impressed – and left wondering – by all of the comments to your good piece.
    I too had a childhood that relied almost exclusively on my abilities to entertain myself and, as far as I can remember, I managed to do it well enough on most days. Needless to say, my imagination; and the resulting problem solving skills needed to get out of the many tight-spots I physically got myself into, did much to shape the individual I am today.

    I remember thinking as I got older that someday, when I have kids, that I would make sure to give them a similar adventurous childhood. Of course, I lived in Portugal which at the time was about 50 years behind the rest of the developed world (perhaps still is some), I didn’t know then about the exciting world that I was about to discover, filled with so many growing possibilities, that the simple art of running around exploring and imagining would become in-fact a distraction in and of itself.

    To the point, I sort of given-up trying to get my daughters off their technology and on to their dusty bikes. Mostly because I’m just as imbedded (if not more) into the many interesting technology possibilities and would in-fact be a hypocrite, if I was to try to force them to do what I don’t easily practice myself. The social media, SimCity town building, online film making, interactive graphic development and homework, etc. they are engaged with is just too pressing and – in a way – constructive for them, to try and turn this into a regulated thing or a “tabu”.

    Nor would I let them roam free – as I did – so lightly nowadays… there are just too many risks now that I never had to worry about then.

    It is a different – not necessarily better – world we all live in. Relaxing, exercise and playing have taken new different forms. They (we) talk and interact more with others today than we ever did at their age. They can and do spend days walking/running/jumping through the shops and malls of any city rather than fields and hills. They get involved in Community Theater and learn coordinated dances and performances that I wouldn’t be caught dead in when I was their age.

    The stage-set has changed forever but the script isn’t all that dramatically different.

    Thanks for your great piece. Keep’em coming. JP

  6. Pingback: WORKTECH12 by @UNWIRED May 15/16 NEW YORK (TIME & LIFE Building) |

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