For families today, technology is morning’s first priority -

For Families Today, Technology Is Morning’s First Priority - This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation- ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customersor use the "Reprints" tool that appears next to any article. Visitfor samples and August 10, 2009
Breakfast Can Wait. The Day’s First Stop Is Online.
Karl and Dorsey Gude of East Lansing, Mich., can remember simpler mornings, not too long ago.
They sat together and chatted as they ate breakfast. They read the newspaper and competed onlywith the television for the attention of their two teenage sons.
That was so last century. Today, Mr. Gude wakes at around 6 a.m. to check his work e-mail and The new routine quickly became a source of conflict in the family, with Ms. Gude complainingthat technology was eating into family time. But ultimately even she partially succumbed,cracking open her laptop after breakfast.
“Things that I thought were unacceptable a few years ago are now commonplace in my house,”she said, “like all four of us starting the day on four computers in four separate rooms.” Technology has shaken up plenty of life’s routines, but for many people it has completely alteredthe once predictable rituals at the start of the day.
This is morning in America in the Internet age. After six to eight hours of network deprivation —also known as sleep — people are increasingly waking up and lunging for cellphones and laptops,sometimes even before swinging their legs to the floor and tending to more biologically urgentactivities.
“It used to be you woke up, went to the bathroom, maybe brushed your teeth and picked up thenewspaper,” said Naomi S. Baron, a professor of linguistics at American University, who haswritten about technology’s push into everyday life. “But what we do first now has changeddramatically. I’ll be the first to admit: the first thing I do is check my e-mail.” The Gudes’ sons sleep with their phones next to their beds, so they start the day with textmessages in place of alarm clocks. Mr. Gude, an instructor at , sendstexts to his two sons to wake up. For Families Today, Technology Is Morning’s First Priority - “We use texting as an in-house intercom,” he said. “I could just walk upstairs, but they alwaysanswer their texts.” The Gudes recently began shutting their devices down on weekends toaccount for the decrease in family time.
In other households, the impulse to go online before getting out the door adds an extra layer ofchaos to the already discombobulating morning scramble.
Weekday mornings have long been frenetic, disjointed affairs. Now families that used to fight overthe shower or the newspaper tussle over access to the lone household computer — or aboutwhether they should be using gadgets at all, instead of communicating with one another.
“They used to have blankies; now they have phones, which even have their own umbilical cordright to the charger,” said Liz Perle, a mother in San Francisco who laments the early-morningtechnology immersion of her two teenage children. “If their beds were far from the power outlets,they would probably sleep on the floor.” The surge of early risers is reflected in online and wireless traffic patterns. Internet companiesthat used to watch traffic levels rise only when people booted up at work now see the uptick muchearlier.
Arbor Networks, a Boston company that analyzes Internet use, says that Web traffic in the UnitedStates gradually declines from midnight to around 6 a.m. on the East Coast and then gets a hugemorning caffeine jolt. “It’s a rocket ship that takes off at 7 a.m,” said Craig Labovitz, Arbor’s chiefscientist.
Akamai, which helps sites like Facebook and keep up with visitor demand, says traffictakes off even earlier, at around 6 a.m. on the East Coast. Wireless reported the numberof text messages sent between 7 and 10 a.m. jumped by 50 percent in July, compared with a yearearlier.
Both adults and children have good reasons to wake up and log on. Mom and Dad might need tocatch up on e-mail from colleagues in different time zones. Children check text messages andFacebook posts from friends with different bedtimes — and sometime forget their chores in theprocess.
In May, Gabrielle Glaser of Montclair, N.J., bought her 14-year-old daughter, Moriah, an laptop for her birthday. In the weeks after, Moriah missed the school bus three times and wentfrom walking the family Labradoodle for 20 minutes each morning to only briefly letting the dogoutside.
Moriah concedes that she neglected the bus and dog, and blames Facebook, where the possibilitythat crucial updates from friends might be waiting draws her online as soon as she wakes. “I have For Families Today, Technology Is Morning’s First Priority - that crucial updates from friends might be waiting draws her online as soon as she wakes. “I havesome friends that are up early and chatting,” she said. “There is definitely a pull to check it.” Some families have tried to set limits on Internet use in the mornings. James Steyer, founder ofCommon Sense Media, a nonprofit that deals with children and entertainment, wakes everymorning at 6 and spends the next hour on his BlackBerry, managing e-mail from contacts indifferent parts of the world.
But when he meets his wife, Liz, and their four children, ages 5 to 16, at the breakfast table, nolaptops or phones are allowed.
Mr. Steyer says he and his sons feel the temptation of technology early. Kirk, 14, often runsthrough much of his daily one-hour allotment of video-game time in the morning.
Even Jesse, 5, has started asking each morning if he can play games on his father’s . AndMr. Steyer said he constantly feels the tug of waiting messages on his BlackBerry, even duringmorning hours that are reserved for family time.
“You have to resist the impulse. You have to switch from work mode to parenting mode,” Mr.
Steyer said. “But meeting my own standard is tough.”


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