I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but I’m going to admit something to whoever’s taking the time to read…As a parent, I have this list of topics I’m slightly terrified to have to discuss with my children. Each one on the list will inevitably need to be addressed, at some point in time in our family, with each of our children. There is a wide range of topics on the list ranging from loss of a loved one, comforting them through heartache and the difference between a want and a need….I feel as though the list continues to grow as my children become more independent in our ever changing society…
We were getting ready to get out the door the other day, when my son uttered a sentence pertaining to a topic I was hoping I could avoid having to talk about for a couple more years. It took me off guard when he said it. We were both frustrated at each other. Me, because I was feeling ignored; him, because how dare I try to get out the house on time (at least in the moment that’s how I was interpreting his frustration)….
The words that came out of his mouth were….. “Why don’t you just get me a phone, already?”……He’s in kindergarten and just recently turned six………
I took a deep breath and resisted the urge to launch into what I feel will be the 21st century version of an “I walked uphill to school both ways in six feet of snow” story. I feel that there will be plenty of time for me to tell him about how old I was when I got my first phone. How at the age of twenty-three, my father felt that a cell phone was a want for me more than a need. Looking back now, I realize in many ways he was correct. I love my father and appreciate that he was always willing to make sure the conversation about a want versus a need remained constant in our home. I’m sure at times he felt that these conversations fell on deaf ears, but they still sit with me. Although, at times as his daughter, I couldn’t get past the irony that he worked in the telecommunications and mobility industry. As a parent, I can appreciate where he was coming from. Especially, now that I’m having to start the conversation with my children at a much younger age. Hopefully, somewhere along the line when they are older, they will appreciate that we are being mindful about how and when we will place technology into their hands….
So, instead of going on a complete tangent and guaranteeing that we did not get out the door on time, I simply said to him….”with a phone comes great responsibility and you still have a long way to come before I am willing to put that burden on you.” It took a lot of will power to not launch into a lecture…
My mind has been reeling since that conversation…….We are parents in a day and age where technology is becoming more and more ingrained in everything we do. We would be doing a disservice to our children and ourselves, if we do not have the conversation about how this shift in lifestyle impacts our families…
I know that technology has become a huge part of the fabric of our society, but I’m listening to my gut on this one. I’m not willing to just embrace something that we don’t fully understand and completely immerse my children in it. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not completely against technology, but I have a strong belief that we need to be mindful and keep the conversation going about what it means to put this technology into the hands of our children.
Here are just a few of the questions that I have been wrestling with since the initial conversation with my oldest….
- How Does Technology Impact Connections and Relationships?
If I provide my child with his own handheld device, what will he miss out on? What will I miss out on? I want my children to value the relationships of the village that surround them. I want them to have a connection with their family and friends, face to face. Them understanding the value and importance of having those connections is important to me. That might be my biggest fear with technology, the smoke screen of connection that it can create. Even as an adult, sometimes I find it challenging to navigate daily life and make sure technology and social networks don’t interfere with the relationships of those present in my life on a daily basis.
I want my children to feel comfortable approaching me with their problems and questions about life. If I give them their own mobile device, will they come to me or will they turn to peers and the internet???…
How do I teach my six-year-old to recognize the difference between the connections made through technology and the connections made face to face?
- How Does Technology Impact my Children’s Ability to Develop and Practice Empathy?
Empathy is an important skill for all of us to have. Our children develop empathy through interactions with their parents and other children face to face. Learning to read body language and seeing how their words and actions impact others can’t happen from behind a screen.
How do I make sure that my children know that the words they choose to type and share have an impact on other people?
- Does Technology Interfere with Our Sense of Self?
Sherry Turkle, in her TED Talk from 2012 (Alone Together), talks about how technology has not only made it difficult to relate to others but also difficult to relate to ourselves. And if we can’t relate to ourselves, we don’t have the capacity for self-reflection.
With technology, we have the ability to be entertained during our every waking moment. We have lost our ability to be comfortable in our solitude. Sherry Turkle talks about how important having the capacity for solitude is and defines solitude as “the ability to be separate to gather yourself. Solitude is where you find yourself so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments.”
How do I make sure my children still have space and time to develop a healthy sense of self?..
When I started to do some research on being a parent in this new era, I came across Dr. Deborah MacNamara’s address to the United Nations from June 2016 (Parenting in a Digital Age ). The one statement she made that resonated with me was…
“The answer to parenting in a digital world is quite simple: we need to believe we are what our children really need. It is a story as old as time, just retold in a digital age.” – Dr. Deborah MacNamara
…..I’m not sure how many times in the short six years, I have been a parent I have not felt like I am enough.…We need to recognize and honour the importance of our relationship with our children.
The questions that run through my head when I think about when my children will be ready to have access to that type of technology are endless. Especially as technology and social networking continue to evolve. While I agree, there are many perks to technology, it also comes with many down falls. It’s important as parents, that we are mindful about how and when we introduce technology into our children’s lives.
We, as parents and a society, need to recognize just how important it is for the conversation to be continuous…This is how we ensure that we can best support our children as they grow and develop in this day and age.
It’s not always going to be easy, because we can’t set our children up to be successful with the tools of the digital era, without taking a good, hard look in the mirror…..but it’ll definitely be worth it…Let’s make sure we’re doing what Dr. Deborah MacNamara and Gordon Neufeld (Raising Children in a Digital Age) are advocating we do for our children….Let’s lead our children into the digital era, instead of following them.