Reaping the benefits of technology for you and your child

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Cyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9FM The Fish returns January 7, 2014

Debbie Gisonni is an author, speaker and trainer on wisdom and media and CEO of The StillHeart Institute in Woodside, California

Debbie Gisonni is an author, speaker and trainer on wisdom and media and CEO of The StillHeart Institute in Woodside, California

Debbie Gisonni is an author, speaker and trainer on wisdom and media and CEO of The StillHeart Institute in Woodside, California. Gisonni is a former technology executive who experienced four deaths of family members over a four-year period, one of them a suicide, which pulled her into a deep period of sadness, and inspired an interest to pursue the things about life that nourish and comfort the soul. The family tragedies sent her on a quest to pursue happiness, which could not be found in the latest app or gadget.

The perspectives and lessons-learned she offers are excellent food for thought for the modern parent hovering in a home with multiple devices where we spend a  lot of time together (in the same house), but may still be isolated and alone – going through the motions distant and yet somehow still connected.

The internet became a global force for change first with commerce (I remember finding Amazon for the first time in the mid1990’s as a novel and convenient alternative to the local bookstore), and then by 2000 the internet and mobile network connectivity stirred a disruption for family life unparalleled in human history with mobile connectivity. It is very easy for kids to believe that everything they need to know they can simply “google” in the palm of their own hand. And there is much cyber-powered confusion between private and secret, trust and faith; brave and risky. And by the same token, the internet connectivity inspires a global world view and compassion for humanity as a whole making it possible for parents to strengthen and deepen their bonds with children around the purpose-driven use of technology.

Debbie Gisonni, also known as “the goddess of happiness”, talks about the benefits and the pitfalls of the personal portability of technology for family life. Age old wisdom continues to guide us. Being purpose-driven in use, with moderation and balance is the key to reaping the benefits cyber tools offer parents and children.

(See related: The Goddess of Happiness: A Down to Earth Guide to Heavenly Balance and Bliss)

Below are some of the nuggets from our conversation.

Benefits of technology

Gisonni appreciates the time saving value of internet technology. Many things in life are made more efficient from travel arrangements and banking to placing orders for goods and services. We want our children to experience this efficiency with the understanding that the device and app exists to serve us, not the other way around.

Other apps with benefits include ones that deliver value and enhance life such as listening to meditation and audiobooks, car pool scheduling, budgeting, facetime apps for real-time video communication, language training, photo editing, and apps which allows you to establish your own television programming such as NetFlicks and Hulu.

(See related: Ten best apps for your new tablet by Kim Kommando)

Social media and texting make is very easy for grandparents and grandchildren to stay connected in very personal and routine ways. Distance that once kept interaction limited to telephone calls, perhaps letters and notes, or traveling for a face to face visit is no longer a barrier to ongoing communication about what is happening in our lives.

The pitfall of technology: Distraction

Time is valuable and attention is the scarcity of our time; we need to be mindful about how we spend it. “Our generation had television and radio. And we had to ask for permission to use the phone,” Gisonni said. There were inherent limitations built in to last generation communications and media technology, unlike today’s technology which is interactive, personalized and affords 24X7 connectivity making it omnipresent and seductive.

“There is nothing that can replace the face-to-face communication or a hug,” she said. “If we are primarily interacting with the devices, not face to face, our social skills suffer. It becomes difficult to look someone in eye.”

In other words, being present in the flesh can become awkward.

“The technology makes it easy to be non-emotional and curt,” she said. “We want to experience emotion. So it makes me wonder how does reliance upon texting impact our overall health?”

Distracted driving. “What kind of example are we setting for our children when we are driving?” she asks.  “We are over scheduled. Think before you activate the device. Use the time in the car with the kids for communing.”

Considerations for parenting in the network

Permissioning. Gisonni sees a need for permissioning. “The permission thing that we experienced as kids with the land line phone should still be happening,” she said. “We should not allow children to use the device anytime. It should be at designated times and measured. When children are overloaded with input from the devices it can be unhealthy. We are seeing more youth suicides; their brains are not fully developed. Downtime is needed.”

(See related: A Google World in the Garden of  Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media)

Being present in the flesh. Gisonni believes that social events and experiences should be technology free. “The kids may not like it [technology restrictions], but if we allow it the children can become a slave to the device.” She observes families at dinner with their heads down, giving attention to their devices – alone, together.

“A good family motto might be, ‘everything in moderation’,” she said.

If we want our children to be mindful about how they pay their attention, it must be modeled. Gisonni asks, “How much time do we spend at the desk? Are we giving attention to family? Or are we working family in around the business and other social tasks?”

Completely unplug. Think about the rhythm of your family life. Make the downtime count in ways that promote closeness and functionality. “Extremes do not work,” Gisonni cautions. “The parents set the tone in the home and it starts with intent.”


Joanna Jullien (Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.


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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.