There can be no doubt that we are living in a digital age – almost everything that we do has it’s basis in some technology that promised to improve our lives in some way or another. At the dawn of the 21st century out devices were going to deliver time savings and make our lives even richer than ever before, allowing us to spend more time with our families.
However the truth has turned about to be slightly different. Devices that were going to give us free time have now simply freed up more time for us to do more work and made it more difficult to escape the pressures of our professional responsibilities.
In this ‘always on’ society it is the young that suffer. Technology has become ubiquitous – and as smart devices touch every aspects of our lives it is often easier to allow these devices to do our parenting for us. In the 1970’s television was accused of being the new babysitter as parents became busier and the job market more competitive.
Today smartphones and tablets are the new babysitters. As children of the digital age the youngest generation are now more tech savvy than ever before. It is not unusual to see toddlers in prams happily playing games on tablets.
However, many developmental psychologists are of the opinion that this sort of play limits human interaction and will cause long term psychological damage, including impairing the child’s ability to socialize. Already we are seeing a generation of young adults who rely more on Smartphones for interaction than face to face conversation.
How do we as parents help our children enjoy the benefits of technology with surrendering all involvement in their lives?
The key to avoiding this situation may be the old idea of balance and appropriateness.
Young children are by nature curious and in this day and age where parents feel the pressure of providing for their family it is often easier to keep a child quiet by providing them with a game or pastime delivered via technology.
Parents need to teach their children that there is a time and a place for everything. Setting apart a time of day for the use of technology will teach children boundaries and responsibility – however the time that is freed up cannot be a vacuum. Parents should interact with children during this time.
During the time that has been set aside for the use of technology parents should make every effort to involve themselves in the child’s exploration of hi tech devices and the applications delivered via the Internet.
Parents and children should reach agreement that certain times are set aside for conversation and human interaction on a face to face basis rather than relying on technology. For instance mealtimes should be family time and technology should be set aside.
The withholding of technology should not be a punishment nor should it be used to deal with boredom. However the parent should always make sure that are enough stimulating options for the child to enjoy. Getting out of the house is one of the most effective ways of promoting a closer relationship with your child. Enjoying the outdoors through visits to the neighborhood park or green space is one of the best ways to ensure that your child realizes that there is life beyond the screen.
Always remember that the digital age has become a reality. Social media and online chats are a reality. Managing how your child can form a healthy relationship with the technology that is shaping our lives is a challenge that every parent must face.