Parenting in the digital ageBy Audrey Tan-Zubiri
Philippine Daily Inquirer
I am horrible when it comes to technology. So I guess it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I’m not a techie parent. However, last week, I heard a short talk about parenting in the digital age and felt like everything the speaker was saying was aimed directly at me! “This is your children’s time, not yours” and “Be open or get left behind” were some of the zingers I felt hitting me. I still have my own ideas and beliefs about parenting and technology, but I thought I would ask some parents how they feel about it. Since June is the month of the fathers, let’s hear what the men have to say.
It is naïve to think technology, in this case, the Internet and social media, will not affect the way you parent your children. Therefore, it is better to incorporate technology into the method of your parenting. This does not however say that technology is your parenting method. Traditional values are still your parenting method but with a twist and benefits from the “tech upgrade.” Information is freely accessible and available to you and your children like never before in history. The question that begs to be asked: Will you have the courage to use it wisely? Ultimately, as parents, we have the responsibility to guide our children, not to make the decisions for them. In the end it is not about reinventing the wheel rather, it is building a better mouse trap.
Technology is heaven-sent for new fathers like myself. I use the Internet extensively to build on my knowledge of important issues like childbirth, breastfeeding, baby health, nutrition and parenting. This wealth of information—freely available and accesible anytime—has helped me become a better and more confident parent despite the short amount of time and experience that I have had as a father.
In today’s age, there is absolutely no reason to feign ignorance on important issues about our children’s well being.
Technology has also made the family closer than ever. Right now, there is never any moment when you feel so far away from your loved ones. Everybody is just a phone or video call away.
As a father of two young girls (ages 3 and 1), I feel that I am still discovering what it means to be a parent in the digital age. From the privacy issues surrounding social media to the threat of online predators, there are a number of things to be concerned about as our girls get older. Yet there are also a number of positive ways in which new technologies are affecting how we raise our kids:
While it’s no substitute for visits to the doctor, the abundance of easily accessible medical information online is welcome. For example, I distinctly remember the first time I googled “baby measles,” and the relief I felt upon realizing that it was something very different than the adult version. The mobile phone also allows the parent to text the pediatrician ’round the clock regarding baby-health concerns. It’s a great benefit.
In the past few years my wife and I have also come across a number of helpful online articles on topics such as behavioral development, pre-school education and discipline. By no means do I agree with all of parenting advice I find online, but it is useful to have a wide base of information upon which to base parenting decisions. I also find many of the readers’ comments that often accompany such articles to be valuable as a means of fact-checking what has been stated in the article. In addition, my wife is an avid reader of the “mommy blogs” and an active member of Manila’s online expat mothers’ community.
I enjoy being able to instantly access animated Dr. Seuss classics such as “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and “The Lorax” (1972 version) to watch with our 3-year-old on a laptop. We’ve found that these animated shows actually complement the experience of reading the original books together. The same is true for a number of smart-phone apps that are designed to engage young children in reading.
And finally, there is Skype, which has been a godsend for those of us living far from our families. It is very important for our children to connect regularly with their grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins through video calls, allowing us to take part in each others’ daily lives or special celebrations. We’ve seen how it increases the kids’ familiarity with their relatives and contributes to their relationships when we are all together in person.
In fact, we were on Skype when our oldest daughter stood by herself for the first time. It was quite amazing to have some of our family witness this milestone while being a world away.
Technology is here to stay. It will continue to shape and transform our lives. The challenge for me as a parent is to ensure my children live balanced lives where technology brings out the best, and not the worst, in them. That means we should always be using technology, and not technology using us.
Rep. Freddie Tinga
We must prepare our children for the demands of the future instead of the needs of the past. Technology is the greatest instrument for this, but using technology without teaching values is like giving a child a loaded gun. As parents, it is important to remember that technology is just a tool and it is up to you to make sure to guide your children in utilizing technology responsibly.
Technology can be a double-edged sword; it can take you away from your kids if you spend too much time on it. However you can also spend quality time with your kids as you guide them through learning apps and educational videos. Of course, nothing beats good old-fashioned play time with the kids, but technology has certainly added to the number of things you can do to spend time with them.
As parents, it is much easier to connect with our children nowadays because of technology. We can receive video or card greetings through e-mail, Facebook or other social websites from our kids. It makes it possible for us to get to know the friends of our children and be able to keep up with their interests. And being proud parents, we can easily share the accomplishments of our children almost instantly with our family and friends. Cell phones keep us constantly in touch with our loved ones, which lessens our anxiety while being away from each other.
Our various gadgets can also serve as a babysitter—just hand your child the iPad and he or she can tap away, engrossed in all the apps the tablet has to offer. And with Google, a single button can give your child the answers to all the puzzling questions thrown at you. With the Internet, parents can spend less time in the office and work at home to bond with their children, being able to give them the much needed attention and guidance which is vital in child development.
However, the digital age also comes with disadvantages. Inappropriate content can be found on thousands of websites. Cyber bullies can affect their childhood. Sexual predators lurk on social networks, preying on our children, while hackers and online scammers are almost unavoidable. Identity theft is also a serious problem. Therefore we should always be vigilant and never let our guard down.
Indeed, there is a conflict between parenting and technology. You don’t raise children with technology. It still needs to be hands on, face to face, personal and direct communication. Oftentimes, children remain glued to their iPad, computer or laptop for several hours which becomes a hindrance to parent-children communication and interaction. Realistically, in this age, we cannot prevent children from being exposed to technological advancement.
Our role as parents is to guide our children, discuss the pros and cons with them and make sure that everyone gives more importance to family time and bonding. If the technology will make your children productive by broadening their knowledge, insight and creativity, we need to be a bit more liberal. Still, you may have to limit the use of these gadgets to an hour or two daily. If it’s for games which can be addicting or for social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or Tumbler, I would suggest that it only be allowed during weekends and limit their use to at most, two hours.
You need to set rules and once violated, should be given sanctions like being grounded for a month.
During our time, we never had all these gadgets. We had to have actual conversations with our parents and the only need for technology at that time was to be able to communicate once we were out of the house with the use of boxy landlines.
At the moment, the only technology we use with the kids are the TV and DVD and occasionally, our iPad, which doesn’t have any applications in it so all they can do is practice drawing on it. We don’t let the kids use the computer yet as we would rather spend that time bonding over actual rather than virtual activities.
However, we all know that we do live in the digital age and technology is going to be a part of our kids’ lives, just as it is a part of ours. When the time is right, I would certainly want them to be technologically savvy as well but I would definitely make sure that I am there to guide them to ensure that they use it appropriately and not abuse it. Technology should help balance our life, not control it.