Parenting today is not just about raising kids, but raising kids with technology. How much agency are we willing to give technology in the lives of our kids? While not all parents will choose to deal with the issue in the same way, all parents are still part of the same conversation.
On one hand, we want our kids to be participating fully in the emerging world, not held back by unrealistic expectations of living a minimalistic technological life. On the other hand, we also want to keep them safe from many of the misuses of technology.
Here are five ideas to consider…
1. Use technology to teach life skills.
One life skill is learning how to take care of our stuff. This is especially true if this stuff happens to be expensive, too. When you buy your kids the latest iPhone, also be sure to buy iPhone cases to protect these sensitive devices.
This serves 3 purposes.
- You protect your investment from accidental damage.
- You impress upon your child the importance of not taking their iPhone for granted, but treat it with respect.
- By extension, you teach your children to treat all their valuable stuff with respect.
2. Treat technology as a friend, not a foe.
Like everything in life, technology is a two-edged sword. It cuts both ways. It can be a force for good or misused and cause trouble. Don’t underestimate the importance of internet safety.
Your 8th grade child can, for example, go online to learn how to do algebra better by watching a video where a math teacher carefully explains how to solve equations with variables on both sides.
Similarly, your 8th grade child could stay up late at night obsessed with a shooter game or surfing through Facebook posts and not getting enough sleep.
By shielding your children from technology, you are making them less able to fit into an increasingly complex world. Parenting is about empowering children with the tools of the world. You will have to devise a way to keep your child from using the Internet in dangerous ways and help teach them how to use this technology with a sense of responsibility.
When properly used, it can enhance their minds. Imagine what would have happened if Bill Gates’ parents would have insisted he quit coding and start playing more ball games with other kids. We would not have affordable desktops to use in our homes.
3. Moderation is still a good idea.
Even if you embrace the idea of technology as a friend rather than a foe, you still have to moderate screen time. Infants and children under two years old do not benefit in any way from bright screens, whether it is a television screen or a computer monitor. Their brains need to adapt to the new world around them.
For older children, those under 10 years, moderation of screen time for both length and content is advisable. Excessive media usage has been linked to problems like childhood obesity, eating disorders, insufficient sleep, difficulty in school, and problems with poor attention spans.
4. Age restriction is necessary.
The biggest danger for children under 13 years old is misuse of social media on their smartphones. Before 13, they are not likely to be able to distinguish between people with predatory intentions or cyberbullying. They can easily be fooled by people using false identities searching for prey online. They are also likely to go out of curiosity to websites where there are no filters on sexual or violent content. Find out about digital parenting tools to keep your child safe.
5. Make the real world more interesting.
The interesting thing about technology is that it can simulate real world experiences so well that we may not even feel the need to leave the house. Instead of going for a walk in the park, you can travel around the world using Google Earth. Instead of having a real conversation, you can text out your thoughts. And instead of taking time to eat and exercise, you can snack all day long lost in a world of entertainment and superficial friendships.
Over time, this can be dangerous. Besides increasing sedentary habits, conversational skills deteriorate and interacting with nature is seen as something to witness through a video rather than something to experience with your whole body. So, as a parent, you should place an emphasis on your child having real world experiences.
The way to make the real world matter is by doing interesting things with your children. This could range from going on hikes to visiting museums to going to plays. Children love technology because it’s interesting. Find ways to make the real world as interesting for your child. Simply limiting their use of technology and expecting them to sit around the house or play outside is not going to convince them that the world can be an interesting place.
Remember That Technology is a Tool
While everyone understands that technology is a tool, few people who love it, treat it that way. Instead they treat it as a lifestyle, as a way to escape from the world of people, places, and things, as a way to live in a happy state as a disembodied consciousness.
You should teach your children to use technology to solve problems, to answer knowledge-based questions, and to increase productivity. It should not be used as a substitute for life. In fact, according to Mum.info, you should even have Internet free days to break the addiction and overstimulation of technology.
Electronics can make a great gift idea for the upcoming holidays, just make sure you know the dangers and how to protect your kids from seeing things they shouldn’t.