Striking the Right Tech Balance This Holiday Season

First was Black Friday. Then came Cyber Monday. Now, with mobile shopping helping push the holiday gift-giving season ever closer, there’s little use in denying the role technology plays in our lives this time of year.

That’s what makes the backlash to this digital encroachment as understandable as it is predictable. After all, what’s the point in seeing our loved ones in person if we spend the entire time glued to our smartphones and tablets?

Jumping on the tech-free holiday bandwagon is tempting, no doubt, but it misses the big picture. With video-conferencing services, including Citrix’s own GoToMeeting and GoToMeeting Free, our devices needn’t be meddlesome distractions conspiring to keep us apart. Rather, they can be valuable tools that allow us to invite into our homes an aging grandfather who can’t make the trip, a niece serving overseas or anyone else who can’t join the festivities.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a few tips to help you get the most out of your technology this year:

  • Set rules and limits. As anyone with a smartphone or tablet knows, a few minutes spent staring at a screen can quickly turn into several hours. Canadian life insurance company Foresters, creators of the Tech Timeout digital pledge, recommends a one-hour break from technology every day. The company encourages families to use this time to engage in low-tech activities such as reading, board games or conversation.
  • Teach relatives to use it. The holidays can be a great opportunity for tech-savvy family to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with seniors and others who may not be comfortable online. As The Wall Street Journal notes, teens especially can be great teachers given their near-native fluency with the devices. Possibly most important, the article adds, the experience can help members of both generations better understand each other.
  • Make it a family affair. Unlike a conference call, a video conference allows family members to see each other — in HD! — rather than just hear the voice of your cousin’s new spouse, your freshman-year roommate or your great-aunt thousands of miles away. And, with up to six video feeds per session, it’s the next best thing to reminiscing by the fireplace.

Now, will someone please pass the stuffing?

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