THE DEVICE DILEMMA
AS TECHNOLOGY advances, many studies are being conducted to try to understand its effects on society, and especially children.
Areas of interest include its effect on children’s brains, gaming addiction, attention-related issues, obesity, hand-eye co-ordination and sleep patterns.
Essentially, we created technology and unleashed it on our children, and now we are scrambling to understand what it is doing to them. So let’s cut through the noise and focus on the connection between parent (caregiver) and child.
Nothing connects us more than technology. It brings together families separated by location, divorce… It gives us a way to communicate with our children when we don’t know where they are. It helps children on the fringes of culture find their identities. It cultivates interests and fosters creativity.
Is my house constantly connected? No. Like everything wonderful, technology has a dark side. Aside from gaming addiction and social media worries, I am keenly aware that the intrinsic nature of technology is that your head is bent down, your eyes staring at a screen. Into a virtual world. Into images fake and real.
If one of the most important aspects of being human is our connection to other humans and nature, most technology works at direct odds to this. It steals our eyes. It steals our attention. It steals our ability to focus on what is in front of us. For children, who are immature and have poor impulse control, the seduction of this virtual world is too great to resist.
I held off on tablets, smartphones and personal computers as long as I could. It felt like the right time to get a smartphone for my oldest child when she went to senior primary.I allowed tablets at about 9 years old, and because my youngest child always feels left out, she is allowed to borrow my phone to play a game or two.
Be prepared to hear all about what other kids are getting and able to do with their technology. To hear it from my children, all of their friends were born holding iPhones and have been on Instagram since they were 2 years old. This is ridiculous, but it can easily plant an insecure seed in your parenting mind. You can even begin to believe that you are hurting your child. You aren’t. Get a mantra going: “every family does things differently. This is how we do it.”
Be prepared to learn about new games and apps and social media, while always knowing that you will fall grievously short of knowing everything.
Be prepared to change the rules based on your child’s evel of maturity, development, executivefunctioning issues, attention issues, sleep issues, bullying, distraction from school and family, nature deprivation, lack of creative play. Whatever rules you create will not stay that way. Accept it.
Don’t take it personally when there’s blowback from the boundaries you place on technology. You need to be the adult and realise that you are doing what needs to be done. Complain to your partner, your friends… but don’t blame your children for wanting to keep the technology you gave them.
Have a day in the week that is free of technology. We do cellfree Sundays, which include no smartphones, computers or TV. It was not well received in the beginning but is now part of the family routine, and it is lovely.
This next piece of advice may surprise some, but unless you suspect real danger or have real concerns, do not read your child’s texts on a daily basis. It will erode the good trust you have with your child, promote sneakiness in your child and create a ‘gotcha’ atmosphere in your family. Do I glance at texts, Instagram and Snapchat? Yes. But I tell my child when I do it and what I learnt, and then I go into listening mode. The main message is: “I care. I am watching. I know your heart. I love you. You will make mistakes. I will always be here for you. I am listening.” But again, the longer you can hold off putting texting into a child’s hands, the better.
Unless there is a compelling reason, do not allow your children to charge their devices in their bedrooms. They will say it is for an alarm, they will say it is easier, they will scream that you don’t trust them. Keep your boundary. Children are already losing sleep at alarming rates, and having technology in their bedrooms only increases their awake time and distractibility and allows more time for shenanigans.
Recognise that, as a culture, we are not moving backwards. Technology is here to stay. But your parental influence is crucial. Are you always on technology? Do you get outside? Do you have friends over to see them face to face? Do you read real books and newspapers? Do you engage in conversation with strangers? Before you ever go about fixing your children, be sure to get your own technology life in line. Yes, we adults have work and obligations, but be sure to walk some of the walk if you are going to talk the talk. – The Washington Post