Preparing your home’s technology foundation requires an all encompassing view of your family’s living habits now . . . and in the future. Home hot spots – your family’s popular hang-out zones, need to be discussed in detail with your residential technology integrator before wiring your home. And while the family room, kitchen and home office are the first considerations for any home technology, don’t forget “the kids’ zone”.
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Today’s children are surprisingly advanced – quite fascinating to observe, actually (though my wife might argue this point, after I recently invited eight 5th graders over for family movie night). They grow incredibly fast, have a capacity to retain 45 special combination moves on every electronic game ever produced, know their way around a PC, and quickly become bored with anything older than 6 months in their room. What is the life expectancy of a new toy anyway?

Children in general, present your home with some interesting dilemmas as you plan your technology infrastructure. As a home’s life often turns around the younger family members’ activities, there are some important questions you need to answer for today and tomorrow:

* Where are they permitted to watch TV/movies?
* Where are they allowed to surf the Internet?
* Where do they play video games?
* What satellite/cables channels can they watch?
* What kind of DVD/VHS movies can they watch?
* Where do they store their music collection?
* Will there eventually be a telephone in their room(s)?
* Is there a dedicated game or media room in the home?
* How many kids can you fit into any one room of your house?
* How big is your refrigerator?

Get Out of My Room . . .

The kids’ zone is typically a bedroom, playroom or game room, though any room where your kids work, play, eat or appear semi-conscious may turn into a temporary kid zone. It’s the advent of separate “activity” rooms in the home which are leaving many children’s bedrooms as sleep and study quarters only- a quiet room with whole-house music access but no video, game or internet connections. Parents are becoming more protective, battling those outside home influences consuming their kids’ time and minds.

Deciding what media access your children should have in their bedrooms is a personal issue to be discussed before deciding your home’s audio, video and data infrastructure. Remember these same bedrooms will transform over the next three to five to ten years, becoming future college student or guest rooms or potentially the bedrooms of a new homeowner.

Kid Zone User Interfaces

The decision of which user interfaces should be used in each room of the house depends on multiple house factors, including room usage, budget, and whose greasy fingers will be pushing, pounding and abusing the room’s switches, remotes, keypads, or touch panels.

Parents’ fears of peanut-butter-splotched touch panels, crayon-colored keypads and toy box buried Prontos usually means very little technology access in the bedrooms in the beginning. However, pre-teens (my son’s newly self-declared status) and teenagers have a greater respect for technology, and as long as none of the buttons on their room’s user interface are labeled “attack” or possess the ability to vaporize aliens, siblings or favorite household pets, more advanced keypads or touch panels might be appropriate. This will become more apparent if your children’s music collection is combined with the whole-house music system, and they wish to access specific presets on their own tuner or specific titles or tracks from their MP3 or CD collection.

Rules, Rules and More Rules

Though I will never earn a doctorate degree in pre-teen psychology, I have learned quite a bit in dealing with my own son and the other alien-looking pre-teens he invites for movie night, a game session, the science-fair project or a summer swim. With time, our family has created some stringent but practical rules – all which are made known to the many 5 foot visitors who knock at the door:

* The Internet can only be accessed from the home office or wireless laptop in the family room, and always with the supervision of an adult.
* While movie night is always held in the family room, occasionally a DVD or VHS may be viewed in the bedroom, with permission.
* While currently being renovated, the game room will also allow for future movie and local cable TV watching, with permission, of course.
* Electronic games can be played in the bedroom or game room. Currently only games labeled “E” for “Everyone” can be played – this includes game collections smuggled in by alien-looking friends.
* Eight-hour electronic game sessions on Saturdays are no longer acceptable.
* The refrigerator is not to be considered a self-cooling device.
* The cat is an indoor pet, and as such, may not go in the swimming pool.

As a parent, I am very concerned with unwanted influences outside the home – the ones which keep trying to find their way into our home through the digital cable box, our high-speed internet access, and my son’s electronic game consoles. We have decided that the home office with two PCs, and a wireless laptop in the family room provide safer open-air environments for web surfing. General TV viewing is always a concern, though these pre-teens usually flip between the array of cartoon channels and educational shows. Music video channels are out – sports channels are always in, especially when I have the remote.

Sit down with your family and discuss the where, what, why and when’s of media distribution through the home. Though some rooms may never have access to some sorts of media, wire for everything conceivable, as family members’ needs may change, and you never know when you might be handing the keys over to the next inhabitants of your technology abode.

David Teel is Co-founder of Avenida Network, one of North America’s largest residential consulting and systems programming firms. David can be reached at or by visiting his company’s web site at .