Dear Tzippora,

My husband got a Blackberry for work purposes. The problem is that now his co-workers expect him to be on-call 24/7. He is always opening emails in the middle of dinner, while reading the kids a bedtime story, or even while we are taking a walk. I keep explaining to him how off-putting it is to have our conversations constantly interrupted by incoming email, but he just doesn't seem to get it. How can I get him offline?

Driven to Distraction

Dear Driven to Distraction,

We are witnessing a technological revolution. Modern technology is advancing much faster than our ability to assess what impact it will have on personal or family life. While technology brings beneficial advantages such as the ability to work from home, or to telecommute to the office, it also brings a host of disadvantages that are created by blurring the boundaries between work and family life.

The situation you are describing is an example of what happens when the boundaries become blurred. We become distracted by work, and find it hard to concentrate on our family during the hours that are intended to help families reconnect after a long day apart.

Explain to your husband that it is not a question of assessing the disruption to an individual conversation, but rather an overall sense you have that he is no longer available to interact with the family in the way that he was before the Blackberry's arrival.

Request that the Blackberry be turned off during specific hours so that family life can take center stage. Examples of these hours would be dinnertime, bedtime, and after-dinner family relaxing time.

You can also honor your end of the bargain by not answering the phone or checking your email during these times. We tend to have a double standard when it comes to our own lapses, and adhering to the same standards as your husband will place your both on even footing.

If your husband needs to be in touch with the office after work hours, allocate specific times for this purpose. It may also be helpful if he let those in the office know when he can be reached.

Remember that whatever practices you establish now will be observed by your children, and become internalized by them. Your current example will become their standard model for family interactions. This means that if you want your children to remove their iPods, or refrain from texting at the table in a few years time, you and your husband must both begin to model the self-control you expect from them in the future. This is an example of how your children's education for life truly begins at home.