Is Digital Technology Making Parenting Harder in Modern Times?
It’s not usual for parents to complain about their being on their phone all the time. But last week, a parent’s comment really surprised me. The mother said, ” My 3-year daughter refuses to eat unless I give my phone to her. She will play games or watch kids’ videos online the whole time I’m feeding her.”
With the emergence of cheaper cell network services and devices, digital technology has seeped into even the very rural parts of India. So, what does parenting in the age of digital technology look like? Are parenting and technology issues as harmful as it appears? While we are getting newer technologies every year, most parents do not think it has made life any easier.
School of Communication, Northwestern University
Problems faced by parents due to technology.
As technology connects us through distances we never thought was possible, our physical spaces continue to shrink every day. Throughout the 2010s leading up to 2021, technology has increased its footprint in the lives of children. Today television, computer, and mobile phones are indispensable for kids even as young as two years old. The continuous use of such a digital medium has produced a consistent effect in the mind of kids.
Parenting in the age of digital technology becomes much more challenging due to these devices. Some studies even go far as to suggest that excessive technology causes temporary or permanent harm to a developing kid’s mind. Thus, it’s no surprise that a large number of parents nowadays have similar complaints regarding the overuse of computers and mobile phones. Some common downfalls of excessive technology are:
- Increase in anxiety and body image issues – Social media and other online spaces have created an epidemic of low self-esteem and body image issues among young teens and teenagers. In this virtual world, your desirability and popularity are equated with the number of likes or comments you garner. It’s a never-ending competition to remain relevant, join the latest trend, and do what others are doing. Kids look at same-aged people and begin to compare themselves to them subconsciously. It prompts them to buy similar things, lose weight, go on diets, and much more. And even when they achieve that goal, they are quickly bombarded with hundreds more.
- Poor academic performance: One of the major parenting and technology problems arises when a child shows poor academic performance. The internet provides numerous easy distractions that lead to kids wasting their time being online instead of studying. Did you know that social media scrolling provides a similar dopamine hit as receiving a prize? This feeling of reward is the prevalent cause of the rising internet addiction among teenagers.
- Less family face-to-face interaction – An increasingly concerning issue of digital technology is the reduction of human interactions. Mobile phones and television often lead to kids avoiding face-to-face interactions with their families. Small kids are often seen glued to tv even when they visit someone else’s house. Watching tv while eating can lead to extreme habits where a child will refuse to eat unless a show runs in front of their eyes.
- Increased Sleep disorders – Restlessness and poor sleep are commonly seen among older teenagers. Insomnia can result due to staying up all night playing games, watching a video, or having a fitful sleep due to notifications at night. The light from the device also messes with the natural circadian cycle of the body, causing further sleep disorders.
- Bullying: Bullying and hate are much more common online than in person. It takes a second to leave a spiteful comment under a photo or to send a vile message in the inbox. Furthermore, anonymous accounts can be easily deactivated and rendered untraceable.
- Poor attention: Kids have become habituated to having one or more devices turned on during all activities, including eating. Doing two things at once leads to less attention span among children. Parents often find them not listening to their words or not paying attention to what’s on their plate as they focus on the phone in their hand.
All these lead to increased stress and anxiety among kids, and in turn, their parents.
Solutions and strategies for effective usage of technology.
Does this mean that technology is bad and should be removed from our life? Not at all. Parenting in the age of digital technology can be a blessing if one learns to regulate the use. The following methods can solve the most common troubles of digital addiction:
- Limit and monitor the time spent on all digital devices including mobile phones. Tablets, computers, and television.
- Establish device-free times where all family members gather to interact and have a chat with each other.
- Prevent the children from taking mobile phones/tablets to bed.
- Limit the data plan in all family devices.
- Set an example for them. Parents who are responsible with their device use are more likely to influence their kids to do the same.
- Install parental control on televisions, mobiles, and computers for kids and young teens.
These rules, if followed strictly, creates a healthy usage pattern among the whole family.
Furthermore, there are many positive effects of technology on child development. Parenting in the age of digital technology has certain advantages that the previous generation did not have.
- The pandemic has shown the importance of online classes.
- A child can now access hundreds of virtual eBooks from their computer and laptop.
- The internet is also full of documentary and educational shows that parents can watch with their kids.
- Video calling now brings a parent working far away closer to the child.
- Leaving a child on their own is also much safer with the emergence of mobile phones. A child can call not only the parents but also the police or a hospital with a press of the button.
Meeting in the middle.
Technology can be a blessing or a curse depending on its usage. As parents, it’s always important to sit down and talk about using everything in moderation. Parenting in the age of digital technology opens up the door to a wide range of experiences for both parents and their children. It gives them a chance to spend time and bond with each other. So, reach out to your child and create a plan that enriches the lives of all the members.
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