Sunday, December 9, 2012

2 Essential Tech foundations for your kids

This post is for those families who are struggling, but aware that times have changed and that some things that were at one time considered optional are now essential.  While I do not believe struggling families need to provide the "latest and greatest" in technology to their children, I do strongly believe that there are 2 essentials that all households must have or they will severely place their members at a huge disadvantage.

1.  A Computer... and if you can afford more than one (or one per person) even better.

I know many have already come to this conclusion, but there are a few hold outs.  You don't have to love computers, but it will be very difficult to pass through a lifetime without being impacted by computers.  As such some computer basics have become as fundamental as reading, writing and arithmetic.

Cost:  You can find very good laptops (new) for well under $300.  If money is tight, consider used equipment.  You can easily find viable computers for under $150 on Craig's List OR if you are uncomfortable, check your locality for used computer stores which may be able to offer both an affordable system as well as a degree of support.

2.  A high speed Internet connection

I realize stating this as an essential will upset some.  Some will have concerns regarding the "safety" of the Internet and some will have concerns about the cost (unfortunately this essential is not as cheap).  Without being an alarmist, I will remark that life is not safe.  Sadly, misfortunes may greet your life, Internet aside.  Certainly there are degrees of risk based on choices you make as is the case in all things in life.  Knowledge is power; the best way for you to manage Internet risk is for YOU to become knowledgeable.  This may mean going to your local library.  In addition to checking out some "For Dummies" type books, many libraries also offer workshops relating to the Internet and computers.

This past year, I attended an open house for my daughter.  Quick quiz - How many teachers provided an email address for making contact?  Answer:  All of them!  Next question:  How many teachers identified at least one Internet site for help outside the classroom?  Answer:  All of them!  Aside from this fundamental truth from our local school's open house, I will remark that as a household with high speed internet, my school age children regularly tap into internet resources to support their education.  I do not understand how you can effectively support your child's education without a computer and a high speed Internet connection.  No, I don't believe you can "run to the library" enough to support the routine need to access the Internet.

Cost:  Unfortunately, a high speed connection is not cheap and varies based on your locality.  The irony is that to find the best deal, you probably need to connect to the Internet.  For most, the likely provider will be either your cable company or your local phone company (DSL).  I strongly do not recommend "dial up" as I believe that "dial up" is inadequate for the vigorous Internet needs that households with children need.  In addition to a resource for coursework, the Internet is a rich environment for research and will play a vital role if college is a likely prospect for your child.  A reasonable estimate is that high speed Internet will likely cost between $30 and $60 per month in most areas.

Aside from supporting your child, I firmly believe that bringing high speed Internet into your home is one of the best things you can do to enrich your life and the life of your children.  Middle class families of yesteryear often attempted to enrich their children by investing in ample reference materials such as Encyclopedias and literature.  The Internet is today's Encyclopedia with Google leading the charge.  There are countless times on a daily basis where my family accesses the Internet for information.  Further, you may find over time that you can use the Internet to save money (yes, I said SAVE money).  We, as do many others, use the Internet on a regular basis to comparison shop.  Additional opportunities for savings may be found through email offerings; for example, recently I saved an additional $5 on a printer by using a 10% coupon received by email.  (Further, I researched the reviews of other customers who purchased this printer so I could be reasonably assured that I was making a good choice).  Another opportunity for potential savings is with online banking.  If you are mailing out 3 or 4 bills each month, you may find that it is easier and cheaper to pay those bills on line.  (4 stamps x .45 = $1.80 towards your high speed connection).

In addition to supporting education, the Internet is vital to employment.  This includes searching for potential employment opportunities as well as performing cursory research before any interview.  Additionally, there is a wealth of tips and "how tos" available on line for basics such as resumes and interviews.  Most employers will request an email address and many will communicate with you via email.  The reason for this is that unlike a phone call, email provides written records and unlike formal letters sent by mail, email is free and quicker.

I fully understand and appreciate the need to make choices when it comes to budgeting and while a high speed connection is a notable expense, it is one which is worthwhile and essential.  I encourage anyone with children to keep this item high on their budget priority list.  Beware of being penny wise, but pound aren't saving money if your child can't compete in the workplace.  If your parents found a way to afford that expensive Encyclopedia because they wanted more for you, keep in mind that the Internet is today's Encyclopedia.   Find a way!  This is important for your child.

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