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The Tug of Tech 

click to enlarge Joni monitors her digital footprint.

megan james

Joni monitors her digital footprint.

While I was nursing my 6-month-old daughter, Joni, one night, my husband unfurled the giant projector screen we use as a TV and began browsing Netflix. As the colorful movie titles scrolled by, Joni turned her face from the thing she loves most right now — my boob — to gaze at the beautiful, mesmerizing screen.

Like most new parents, we were told Joni shouldn't have any screen time before she's 2. We're on board with that recommendation, but it sure is hard to keep screens out of her life entirely. And it's spooky to watch her watch them: Her typically squirmy body goes still, her mouth drops open and she stares, captivated by the glow.

That's when I slip down the rabbit hole of worry. Is she growing up in a world increasingly devoid of human contact? By not letting her look at shiny, new technology, will we drive her to covet it? Is it a bad sign that she's always reaching for my iPhone?

It's easy to be fearful of the changing world. But the digital era also gives parents plenty of reasons to celebrate.

We're delving into both the good and the bad in this month's tech issue, timed to coincide with the 8th annual Vermont Tech Jam. This family-friendly job fair and tech expo, organized by our parent company, Seven Days, takes place on Friday and Saturday, October 24 and 25, at Memorial Auditorium in Burlington.

So let me count the ways that I love being a mother in the online age.

I've spent innumerable hours over several months bouncing with Joni on an exercise ball in the middle of the night. Instead of losing my mind to the sound of the ball squishing against the floor, I've been soothing myself with "The Longest Shortest Time" podcast on my phone. This program for parents of young children bills itself as a "3 a.m. bedside companion." Listening to the voices of other beleaguered new moms makes me feel part of a bleary-eyed sisterhood.

Another perk of modern technology? I can snap photos of Joni and instantly archive them on the Vermont-born app, Notabli ("Just Post It"), which is similar to Facebook, but doesn't burden my childless friends with baby pictures.

And I can look forward to my daughter learning to code as part of her school curriculum ("Cracking the Code"). Her tech-savvy dad is counting down the days until they can program a game together.

I think I'll hold off on getting her an iPad, though ("Screen Wars"). I'd love to keep watching movies the old-school way, everybody piled onto the couch in front of one big screen.

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