It's the usual scene at the family dinner table. Everyone is either glued to their phones as plates are being passed around, or sitting within arms-reach of their devices, ready to grab them the moment a new text or email comes through. Parents are guilty of it too, as a new Comcast survey released last week showed that half of respondents had been asked by their kids to put their phones away, and 42 percent could not even recall the last time their families had dinner without devices on hand. The study looked at parents and found that 98 percent agreed that device-free meals would improve family bonding.
Comcast is trying to remedy that by listening to their customers and developing solutions that could improve bonding time, not hinder it. "Technology should adapt to meet our customers’ needs, not the other way around," said Eric Schaefer, senior vice president of internet and communications services for Comcast. The ISP now has its Wi-Fi pause control device, essentially a parental control mode, which the company affirms is its most popular function on the new Xfinity xFi platform.
According to Comcast, more than 10 million customers are now using the xFi platform, which is set up so that users can manage their Wi-Fi networks from a mobile app, website, or through the X1 voice remote on the TV. The system contains features for families, like the pause device, that allow parents to monitor and control their kids' connectivity use through safer searching techniques and real-time notification set-ups that inform them of any new activity on the Wi-Fi network.
The pause feature allows users to "pause" Wi-Fi access over a home network during specific times, like dinner or bedtimes, by either user or device. "With xFi’s ‘pause device’ feature, parents have the power to decide when it’s time for family members to connect with each other, rather than their devices," said Schaefer. Comcast reports that the feature has been used about five million times so far, with the evening hours of 6-9pm seeing the highest usage.
Ironically, features like this one speak volumes to how technology itself can actually help families and internet users strike the right balance when it comes to the amount of time spent online. Giving users the power to teach their children when it's appropriate to pull out their tablet to check on homework or to text with a classmate, and when it's time to put away the phone and have face-to-face time with their families, is an invaluable tool for today's digital world. It's a good reminder that technology is here to help everyone connect, not all the time, but in smarter ways.