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Tech helps find time to be a good father

There’s not enough time.

Time to work. Time to exercise. Time to reconnect with my wife. Time to think about all the things we’ll never have time to do.

Oh, and time to be a good parent.

Most of my dad-friends agree there’s never enough time for that. We want to be good dads, but it takes time — good, quality time.

For me, being a good dad means spending “some” time every day with my kids. That’s not always quality time, but I do try to talk to them about their days. When time permits, we stray into conversations about deeper issues about life.

Yes, this makes it sound like a chore, like something I’ve added to the to-do list. It’s not. But spending quality time with them had been challenging of late, especially as my older kids have, well, gotten older.

They’re 14 and 12 now. They want their own time — their “alone” time, or at least time away from Mom and Dad. That’s OK with us (most of the time).

The best part is, I actually like hanging out with my kids. They’re funny, inquisitive and talk about our lives in ways that give me hope for the future. But there’s a 10-year age range among them, so spending quality time with all of them on something they all like to do and talk about is a challenge.

My go-to solution to get everyone in on dad-time is technology.

I know, I know — big stretch for the guy who writes a social media and tech column. But for a long time I tried to remove the tech from dad time. This meant board games instead of video games, fishing and hikes at Mill Creek Park instead of Netflix and YouTube.

This works, but it also limits our connection points.

See, we all have overlaps in fields of experience with our kids. The trick is to use those overlaps to your advantage. For my wife — it’s cooking, reading and learning about politics, which the 14- and 12-year-olds love right now.

My wife and I jump into action when we find those overlaps.

These days, rather than reject technology, we’re exploiting it to be better parents.

We’re using it to enhance other activities, and to find new shared experiences. I play Pokemon Go (which I’ve written about extensively in this column) with my 9- and 7-year old. It gets us outside. We walk, talk and play. We’re trying to “catch ’em all” (that’s a Pokemon reference, by the way). We explore areas near our home that we’ve never visited before.

I’m also planning a trip with the 14- and 12-year-old. I’ve included them on the travel planning details — everything from picking flight times, looking at hotels, checking places we’ll eat, and the sites we’ll see. We’re planning while we sit together in the same room, on the same computer, laughing and joking as we make choices about our big adventure.

See, tech doesn’t always have to get in the way of bonding time. Tech only gets in the way if and when we let it. With the right tech at the right time, it’s easy to find ways to spend quality time with our kids.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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