Like a ferocious whirlwind, technology is rapidly evolving, leaving a trail of change in its wake. It often feels like we are panting for breath in our clamour to keep up with the mind-blowing advancements.
Think for a moment if our forefathers made a comeback. I suppose they would cry foul. They wouldn’t have an iota of an idea about how things work around here anymore.
They would probably despair at all the swiping, tweeting, snapchatting and much more.
Digital technology offers us great convenience. You can shop, connect with friends and family, work, advertise, monitor your baby, book travels, and get loads of entertainment from your smartphone. I mean, life just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?
On the flipside, this same spellbinding technology has worked many parents into a frenzy. How are we to raise our kids in this era? Does anyone have a manual we can use? How can we protect our kids from the harmful effects of technology?
We are glad you asked. We may not have all the answers but we have compiled some useful guidelines to help parents and caregivers maneuver these murky waters.
The Danger is Real
I recently stumbled upon a spine chilling Facebook post that brings this reality home. A mom alleges that her 7-year-old daughter had watched a video on the internet that instructed her to commit suicide.
The video apparently starts off as an innocent kids video. Then along the way it takes on a morbid tangent.This mom then details how her daughter went through an emotional turmoil bordering depression.
Here’s the thing, aren’t we all breaking our backs trying to raise our kids well and cushion them the best way we know how to? Only for the Internet to try and trash our efforts? We don’t take that kindly now, do we?
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. There are many such cases that range from cyberbullying, exposure to pornography, and sexual harassment.
In view of this, here are some tips that can get you started in the right direction where technology and kids are concerned.
Keep Kids Away from Devices as Much as Possible
Child development experts recommend that Babies younger than two years should have no contact with screens. Their young brains are rapidly developing and should only be stimulated by the external environment.
Children who are exposed to screens at tender ages risk having their cognitive abilities compromised. Their ability to concentrate, communicate, interpret other people’s actions and focus on tasks is hampered.
Parents should, therefore, delay exposure to screens as much as possible.
Monitor Screen Time
Do not allow your kids to consume any content online unsupervised. Stick your nose into what they are watching. You will not be intruding into their privacy. It’s your business to monitor and determine what they can watch/listen to/do online.
Recent cases have revealed that some videos that are labeled educational on the internet have harmful information that creeps up along the way. Shield your kids from this trap by keeping tabs of what they are consuming.
Let your kids know plainly the dangers associated with the Internet and technology, especially for older kids. Let them in on the dangers of pornography, sexual harassment and other vices that lurk on the screens.
If you have older kids who own smartphones, define your family values where technology is concerned. They should know how to behave as members of the family and keeping off unsavoury content should be part of it.
If they do not adhere to the rules, remind them who wears the pants in the family. Feel free to withdraw the device.
Have Screen Free Zones
Ipads, smartphones, computers, TVs, and a myriad of other devices have encroached our homes. Be deliberate and have ‘sacred’ areas where these devices are not allowed.
You can, for instance, ban these devices from the bedrooms, dining table, and family vacations. Take this time to have face to face communication with your family. Cultivate this habit in your family and create tech-free memories with your kids.
Encourage Outdoor Play
Allow your kids to explore the outdoors and you won’t have to drag them off the screens. Kids thrive in play and should be allowed to touch and feel with their hands. Allow those little feet the thrill of running around.
While indoors, involve them in stimulating activities like crafts, reading books and indoor games.
Embrace the Good in Technology
It is not all gloom where screen time is concerned. There is a host of educational content and healthy entertainment that your kids can benefit from. Your child can also learn a skill online, like playing a musical instrument.
These devices also allow us to capture our kids’ milestones and memories in photos and videos. They allow us to do video calls when a member of the family has traveled.
Your job as a parent is to harness technology for the good of your family.
Don’t use Technology as a Babysitter
I am hanging my head low in shame as I type this because I have been guilty of this icky behavior. Hooking my toddler up with a Peppa pig episode and sneaking away to finish a chore or two. And my toddler would not disappoint, she would be transfixed on the show until I resurfaced.
But I have since changed my ways. I don’t do this anymore.
In our fast-paced society where we have so much to do in such little time, it is tempting to use screen time to distract our kids.
Parents, however, need to be more deliberate and creative in keeping their kids busy without resorting to screen time.
Lead by Example
The most effective way of convincing your kids to keep off the screens is by modeling the same to them. How many of us can go for two hours without checking our phones and not feel like the world is caving in on us? Two agonizing hours! It is unfathomable, right?
Yet with such strong terms, we seek to dissuade our children from obsessing with the same devices that keep a tight rein on us! Do not be fooled, your kids are watching you. They are baffled at how comfortable you are preaching water while sipping wine.
Technology is on the rise and has been woven in the tapestry of our lives. It comes bearing the good and the bad. In view of this, our work as parents has been cut out for us. We need to monitor how much time our kids spend online and what they are consuming while at it. This is one job we cannot sleep on.