This picture should give you pause. The pervasiveness of technology is both a blessing and a curse. What's a parent to do when raising the littlest ones?
This is Part 2 of our three-part series. Part 1 focused on this statement: Parenting is hard. Here, we’re focusing on the second challenge: Technology is pervasive.
Devices. They’re everywhere. And they’re not going away. Right now as I write, I have three types of devices I’m referencing. They’re part of what makes up me and my life as we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st century.
Life was not always like this. But, even though not a digital native myself, I can hardly imagine it without. If you’re parenting kids under your roof these days, you surely can’t either. And your kids will never know a world without them.
So, even thought the statement “technology is pervasive” seems self-evident, the consequences of their continual presence and influence in our lives is not.
Much has been written about this evolving phenomenon. You can read thoughtful, academic articles like this one in the MIT Technology Review or watch a TED talk like this to better understand the larger picture. (Ironically, you are using technology to read this, and to refer to these resources.)
In Is technology affecting your child’s mental health? Clinical Psychologist Nicholas J. Westers dives into the connection between technology and mental health amongh children. It’s a worthwhile read.
Two other excellent resources I’ve read and would recommend are The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place and 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You.
But in this relatively brief article, is to first address this singular truth:
As a parent, you have influence upon your young children’s lives in terms of what and how much technology / media they are exposed to.
Yes, up until at least school age, you hold the keys. And you should not forget that.
First start with you
How do you use your devices? When you have little ones under the age of five in your home, how, where and when you use your devices – especially your cell phone – really, really matters.
You need to be intentional not to use your phone during key times when your child(ren) are awake, alert and looking at you to lead. I would say to almost exclusively keep it put away, up high so climbing toddlers & preschoolers can’t get it. Do your best to use it only for the function of phone calls (and screen the incoming) and the occasional photo.
I know, I know – it’s so hard because of all the functions tied up in the cell phone! And, man, those kiddos are cute and you simply want to post picture after picture to Instagram or Facebook to share his/her cuteness with the world. (I get that, I really do! I’m thinking of some specific little kids right now whom I adore and am grateful I get to enjoy so many pictures of them.)
But here’s where your adult intentionality (and restraint) needs to come into play. Realize, it’s only you who feels the pictures need to go up real time! Think about waiting until nap time or after the little ones are down in the evening.
What you’re aiming for is little kids who see you rarely using your cell phone, not always using it. Because they will model what they see – and they will want yours, not a kiddie model! (Many screens have been cracked because Mom or Dad simply cannot resist giving the phone to their little one.)
Careful with the message you’re giving
Now, here’s another point: Do not use your cell phone or tablet as a rewarder for bad behavior!
I have seen this happen so many times.
You want to have a real adult conversation with your friend, and your toddler keeps vying for your attention. At some point, you’ve had enough, and you give up! You hand the phone over to your little guy (or gal) and tell him/her how he/she needs to settle down.
You have just rewarded his/her bad behavior. What has your child learned?
You really need to think this through. It is tempting to do this. But you need to give some solid thought to the messages you’re communicating to your child under 5 (or even up to 10) when you do this.
And if you’ve already been doing this and feel as if it’s a lost cause, think again. You can begin today and reverse the trend.
Will you face resistance? Heck, yes! But will you eventually gain the ground you need to steer the ship in the right direction? Absolutely, if you choose to change today.
If your child is over 5 – especially if he/she is in school – you face different challenges. We will deal with those, as well as what to do when you have multiple children at different stages, in the next article (coming out Thursday, February 7), so stay tuned!
What strategies do you use to manage contact with technology in your home?