Raising five kids, technology in the home is something I've been navigating for over a decade.
Of course, this wasn’t something my Mum ever had to worry about. Our corded home phone was stuck to the wall, and it didn't exist until I was 12. All personal calls were made in the lounge room fully monitored by the entire family.
When I got my first boyfriend we’d speak for hours every night on the phone, mainly saying ‘you hang up’ ‘no you hang up’. The only way to turn the home phone into a personal device was to sit under a blanket. It was a Queensland summer and although I was only 15 I was hot flushing like menopausal 51-year-old.
To be honest, I love that the phone has become a personalised device. I don’t think I could have coped watching my kids fight over a phone on the wall. All my kids have phones, and I pay for all of them... even the ones who don't live at home anymore.
But inside our house, a strong, reliable internet connection has never been more important. The kids need it for school and uni, to talk to their friends, and during lockdown, they needed it to stay sane. Optus have recently launched a new Family Home Internet Plan, which comes with unlimited data and now includes a WiFi Booster, which extends the WiFi coverage when connected to a compatible Optus modem. This has meant less fights, more freedom and more flexibility to work from anywhere in the house.
Then, there's the Optus Family Mobile Plan, which has helped us come together onto one plan for the family & share data across all our phones. I know with all the streaming and gaming that they do, that having separate plans can be a problem if they don’t have enough data, and that if you blow your data you can end up with a hefty bill. I don’t use much data – so we pool together and know how we are tracking as a family.
My favourite part of the mobile plan is that it comes with the McAfee® Safe Family App – which helps us keep track of our screentime and develop positive online habits. Thanks to their phones I am still mothering them, even when they’re over 2000km away! Just because they’re older, doesn’t mean you stop worrying.
I worry about where they are, if they’ve got enough money, if they’re sad, if they are able to get home from a party safe. With kids in different states, I often ask them to text me when they’re home safe. I want to be involved in their lives. I say ‘send me a pic of the dinner you made’.
I have a group chat with all my kids and my 11-year-old Ivy. We have precious family time in this rolling conversation. It’s important for Ivy because she’s so much younger than the others and she wants them to share in what she has been up to. Her first basketball game. The loaf of sourdough she made. The new haircut. A funny thing the dog did. A new cat. It goes on a group chat and her siblings are still in conversation with her.
Like most 11-year-olds, Ivy isn’t great on a call. She loses focus and doesn’t really say anything. But on our group chat she shares pics, she’s funny, she hears about what the other kids are up to. Whenever I get a bing I get this little thrill, that for a moment, thanks to my device, our family is back together. You hear so much negative stuff about technology, but if you use it well, it can be such a great way to keep those you love close. It keeps my family connected.
I’ve been in all different parts of Australia, countless kilometres from where they are, and I’ve been able to deposit $100 into their accounts. My Zoe loses her wallet all the time, but since her hand first wrapped itself around a smart phone, she seems to always know where it is. Sometimes I wonder if she’s encapsulated it in her internal body map as an extension of her own body! She has her license, her ID, her online banking all on her phone. She can lose the entire contents of her wallet but still able to shop for groceries or jump in a taxi.