If you were to do away with technology today, will you become a better parent? Will your kids be any better in school or behavior-wise? Technology has become significant, but the extent to which it may have a negative or positive effect on parenting is debatable.
Parents worry over how much time kids are investing on smart devices, online security, and the content they access. But they fail to evaluate how they too get carried away by technology that robs them of the time they could spend with their kids.
How can technology make parenting easier?
Research on the U.S. adult opinions on the internet & its effect on areas of life 2019, 34% of the respondents said that it positively improved familial relationships, 31% were of the contrary opinion. This proves the role technology plays in your life depends on how you use it. So, how can you apply it to make your parenting work easier?
1. Use it to Save your Time
There is no doubt parenting is one of the toughest jobs. You’ve got so many errands to run throughout the day. From taking and picking kids to various classes, organizing kids’ events like birthdays, and grocery shopping.
To save time, the apps make your work simpler.
- Calendar: Use the phone or Google calendar to set reminders for important affairs and activities for your family. It gets easier since you can sync it with other people who are in direct contact with your child; the teachers, trainers, or the rest of the family. Can you imagine forgetting a child’s birthday or audition for a contest? The calendar has a reminder that simplifies your work and saves you time from referring to a diary now and then.
- GPS: Looking up new locations is now simple. No more driving or walking around for hours to locate a building. The GPS allows you and your kids to find locations and estimate the time you need to get to those locations. You don’t have to waste time asking around for direction.
- Shopping and Banking Apps: When you have to pick kids from school, drop them for piano practice, and be back home to prepare dinner in time, how do you squeeze time to queue at the bank or shopping mall? Amazon, eBay, and so many other stores allow you to shop from the comfort of your home and deliver to your doorstep. You can now afford an hour for a power nap, gym; healthy, right? Mobile banking will save you the time you queue in the banking hall.
2. Use it to Get Information
The information has become accessible on Google and other platforms. Parents are not an exception to exploring this knowledge. When your kid feels low and exhibits specific symptoms, you can look up the symptoms and find simple home remedies before getting to a doctor. This should not substitute professional checkups or advice. You can also join fellow parents on online forums to get answers and suggestions to your parental queries.
Your kids can access educational material online. Some apps are designed to make learning a fun and enjoyable process.
3. Use it for Security
There was a time when working parents had to drive back home just to check on their young ones. Although you had nannies or caregivers looking after them, you can’t help worrying.
The technological invention allows you to monitor your kids when you’re far from home or in different rooms. With the help of a baby monitor, you worry less when you see and hear what the nanny is doing to your kid or what the kid is up to. The monitor has visual and audio effects, you hear the baby crying and some monitors allow two-way communication. The baby can hear you too.
4. Use it to Keep in Touch
So you thought voice calls were not revealing enough, then here came video calls. If your kids are out on a trip or away in boarding schools, it’s easy to assess his surrounding by a video call. You can see the people with whom he’s interacting and the condition of the location. Worry no more. Video calls help you stay in touch and remind your kids you’re thinking of them.
5. Use it to Entertain your Kids
As much as outdoor activities remain the number one preferred activity for kids, you can’t ignore factors such as weather and safety. It’s safer to have them indoors in the evening or if it’s raining or snowing.
Your kids can enjoy video games but do not forget to control the time they spend playing and the content they can access when using tablets or phones for fun.
How Has Technology Affected the Parent-child Relationship?
Whether you’re a working or a stay-at-home mum, you spend time on the internet shopping, browsing on social media, or replying to emails. It’s trickier for working parents. When it’s five in the evening and you are yet to complete the assignment your boss gave you. You still have to pass by the grocery, pick your kids from school and get home in time to assist with homework. The last resort is to take the work home.
As you contemplate replying to that sensitive email, or uploading and sending the PowerPoint presentation from home, remember that you’re using family time. This is the time you could bond with your kids, make meals, or do a family activity together.
Imagine getting a stressful email from work while at the dinner table, or during a game session with your kid. You may withdraw yourself since the message might be upsetting. Anything the child does to get your attention back to what you were doing may seem annoying, and you yell and snap at him because of the frustration rising in you. Your child will pull out, you blew the chance he had to talk, eat and bond with you. These stressful work issues that frustrate you and have you shouting at your kids unfairly will cause a strain in the relationship with your kids.
When your child calls upon you for a hug, or playtime yet you’re on the phone or computer working or socializing, chances are it is hard to concentrate on what the child wants. The child feels you’re not giving him any attention. Well, he ends up misbehaving and throwing a tantrum just to get your attention. Your failure to correct this in the future will have this behavior stick in your kids.
When you’re at home, your children need to feel that you are a hundred percent present. Children may feel unimportant when they engage in a conversation or a play, but you can’t give them complete attention. That simple reply to a Facebook post or the email may seem harmless to you, but it touches your child, for he lacks your attention.
The conversations families engage in over dinner, or while driving them to school is significant. They teach kids how to have meaningful verbal and non-verbal communication. But when you’re busy with your phones, chatting and texting while having a meal, what do you expect from your kids. They’ll probably pick their phones and start smiling and giggling at their chats. In the end, you fail to bond and teach important lessons to your kids during such special family moments.
It is, therefore, a fact that technology can and will harm the parent-child relationship if you over-do it.
So What Can You Do to Stop Technology from Interfering?
Diana Graber says in her book that although snatching a phone out of your child’s hands may eliminate the dangers, but your kid misses out on the opportunities and benefits of technology.
This is where you have to find the balance. It’s okay to have a social life, to work from home sometimes, and to use your phone at home. But there are important decisions you can make to create harmony.
1. Create a Media Schedule
It may sound hard, but it works. When you’re home, your children need you to be attentive to their needs. You also need to bond and catch up with the events happening in their lives. You can agree on and set a family media plan. It could stipulate that no one should use a phone at the dinner table, during family activities, and close to bedtime. The kids should not use their phones or games before finishing their homework and chores.
There could be specific areas in the house where you allow mobile phone use and restrictions in other areas. This will give you and your children time to bond and take a rest from technology to concentrate on family issues.
2. Be the Bigger Person
Now that you’ve set a schedule, don’t go-ahead to do the complete opposite just because you’re the authority in the house. Your kids will support the move if they see you adhering to the rules. When you get home, be the first to put away your phone, and they’ll follow suit. No TV sets in any bedroom including yours will emphasize the importance of sleep.
Enjoy this process to make your kids feel that you’re doing this to get time to have fun and interact with them. When you enjoy the process, you’re assuring them they are worth the sacrifice.
3. Choose other Outdoor Activities as Alternatives
When you think of the negative effect of technology, you can’t help but remember the good old days. Only people in Generation X and Y could relate to the picnics and the outdoor games because there were fewer technological disruptions. Doctors still insist on outdoor interactions to help kids in social- cognitive development.
Try to allocate weekends and holidays to spend outdoors and leave those gadgets at home or in the car while indulging in a picnic or a sport. This way, you’ll be teaching your kids other ways to have fun other than on their tablets and laptops. You’ll also get a break from social media and work-related issues that can be stressful and rob you of the fun-time to indulge with your family.
Choose interactive and highly entertaining games that will help kids develop social skills and make them forget phones and tablets for a few hours.
4. Do a Self-analysis
Do you want to know how much time you spend on social sites and emails? It’s easy. Download and install an app like Offtime or Moment. You can then audit the areas where you spend most time whenever you’re online and reduce and recapture your time.
In this audit, you’ll also identify the stressful areas, like work emails or online focus groups. You can then choose to switch off notifications from these apps when you’re home having quality time with your children.
5. Engage Yourself in an Activity Just for You
Parents complain of boredom and having no life outside parenting as the reason for staying online for long hours. They entertain themselves through gossip and entertainment channels like Facebook and YouTube.
If that is the case, find things to do for you that do not involve any digital devices. You can read a book, bake or join other parents and have fun. Stop burying your head in your phone and forget to socialize and get some groove on. It’s okay, don’t feel guilty for needing that alone time without the kids around to disrupt it.
How Can Parents Familiarize Their Children with Technology, While Minimizing Negative Social and Health Impacts?
As a parent, you worry a lot whether your kids are spending too much time online, the content they are accessing and the people they are socializing with on social sites. It worries you that social acceptance or rejection on the online platform can affect a child’s social development.
You don’t have to take away the phones and tablets to protect them.
1. Set Limits and Guidelines
You can’t deny that technology has its benefits too. Learn to use it and avoid the negative effect it may have on you and your kids. To make sure that the kids do not stay too long online or playing on the latest version of PlayStation, set rules on how and when they can engage on these devices.
Control the sites they visit, the people with whom they interact, and the information they share online. This way, you’ll allow them to access appropriate content for their age. Also, advise them not to accept friendships from strangers on these online streets. Strictly warn kids on divulging sensitive personal information about themselves and others.
Come up with consequences that they will face for failure to adhere to these rules. You can brainstorm with them so that it will be easy for them to follow what they helped to set and not sulk when facing up to these consequences they came up with themselves.
2. Get Involved
Most parents claim ignorance of technology. But you don’t have to be a genius or have a degree in any IT course. Simply ask your kids to show you how they navigate on their phones or tablets, the sites they visit, and start following too. You’ll get to view who they follow, what they post, and get the general experience of being on these sites.
Allow yourself to learn from your kids about the latest apps or videos. You can set up a playlist together and find time to watch their playlist as they watch yours. You may then discuss whatever you’ve watched to get their views on how they perceive such information. Their perception of the content they access will guide you on the right actions to take when setting parental control.
Take this opportunity to show them how to interact with kindness and tolerance on social media.
3. It’s Time for that Serious Talk
There are so much negativity and bullying on social sites. Teens compete to keep up with the latest trends that may trigger jealousy and unhealthy competition from peers. When teens post or share photos and videos on such platforms, they could get negative reviews or comments. This may lower their self-esteem.
Before introducing your kids to technology, explain to them the scenarios and people they are likely to meet online. Tell them about the hate and misrepresentation on social media. Just because they see people posting happy and luxurious videos and photos, it could as well be fake. So advise them not to compare themselves with these socialites.
In case they encounter bullying online, advise them to report to you immediately. It’s good that they don’t respond to these bullies, and you can report the cases to the authorities for further action. Open up conversations with your kids so they may be free to come to you when they face such incidents. Most kids may shy away after bullying incidents, and this can affect their social development.
Teach your kids to be confident and love themselves for who and what they have so that no one underrates or belittles them.
4. Limit Screen Time
There are many sites where kids access videos and movies, not forgetting the many TV channels. Why not set aside a day just to watch movies and the latest videos with your kids?
When you watch movies with them, the session becomes interactive, unlike when they watch on their own. You get to bond and have fun while teaching them the right viewing content.
Your kids will learn to cope without these screen gadgets during the off-screen days. Take advantage of those days to talk to them and introduce new concepts like card games, poker, or favorite sports.
5. Delay Introducing Technology to Young Children
It’s now common for parents to put young ones in front of the TV to watch favorite cartoons or music so that the kid would stop fussing to give you time to attend to house chores and other duties. And it works. The kid sits silently, watching and clapping and laughing at his favorite cartoon character. Instead, introduce a new entertainment game to distract the baby.
At two kids are already learning to be social and form behavioral patterns. Interactive play is vital at this age than passive sessions like watching TV, to help the child develop social and communication skills. Keep the child away from any screen gadgets and allow him to be creative and interactive with other activities. So, the late introduction of technology to kids reduces the harm of early exposure that may limit a child’s development.
Benefits of Limiting Screen Time
In a survey published by Joseph Johnson on U.S parent concern over screen time by a child during COVID-19 pandemic 2020, 23% of the 899 respondents were very concerned about the time children spent on screen devices. A further 33% were somewhat concerned about the same. The reason for concern is that, when kids spend more time on screen, they lose social skills, develop health complications like obesity and poor sleep, and interfere with school and behavioral performance.
By limiting screen time, you only allow a specific amount of time daily and ensure the sessions are educational and age-appropriate content. This gives them extra time for play, exercise, reading a book, and helping with house chores. In return, they develop social skills since they learn and interact with siblings and friends during face-to-face talks and games.
The different outdoor engagements keep them active and may help improve their health and physical fitness.
There are new technological innovations every day, this only means it’s here to stay and getting bigger. However, those special moments with your children will pass; they’ll outgrow your hugs, playtime, and talks. So have that conversation with your kid, play, laugh, read books and take that fun walk or drive. As much as the phone and social sites entertain and keep us in touch, don’t let technology rob your time with loved ones. Make choices that will have technology make your parenting job easier rather than tougher.
 McDaniel, Brandon T., and Jenny S. Radesky. “Technoference: Longitudinal associations between parent technology use, parenting stress, and child behavior problems.” Pediatric Research 84.2 (2018): 210-218.
 Radesky, Jenny S., et al. “Parent perspectives on their mobile technology use: The excitement and exhaustion of parenting while connected.” Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 37.9 (2016): 694-701.
 Kanter, Maggie, Tamara Afifi, and Stephanie Robbins. “The impact of parents “friending” their young adult child on Facebook on perceptions of parental privacy invasions and parent–child relationship quality.” Journal of Communication 62.5 (2012): 900-917.
 Hamilton, Kyra, et al. “A psychosocial analysis of parents’ decisions for limiting their young child’s screen time: An examination of attitudes, social norms and roles, and control perceptions.” British Journal of Health Psychology 21.2 (2016): 285-301.