The 21st century guide to parenting is filled with topics and themes that didn’t exist a decade ago. Should your seven-year-old child have a cell phone? Is it all right for ten-year-old Susie to have a Facebook or Twitter account? How come little Johnny knows the ins and outs and secrets of Halo and Skyrim but still doesn’t know how to ride a bike or tie his shoe? Sexting. Cyberbullying. Cybercrime. The new millennium guide to parenting can be divided into all sorts of subjects. In our increasingly digital universe, where screen-glow, tech product launches and 24/7 connectivity is the norm, no modern parent wants their child to grow up in a cave, unfamiliar with the gadgets and devices of the New World. At the same time, you want your child to know the difference between a real friend and a Facebook friend. So where do you draw the line?
Computer Skills vs. Angry Birds
Trying to establish an age where gadgets and tech are appropriate for a child is an impossible task. From neurologists and child psychologists to behaviorists and pre-school teachers, everyone is going to have a different theory and opinion on the matter. However, it all comes down to the parents. If Mom and Dad are constantly on their computers, tablets and smartphones, then chances are their kids are going to be introduced to technology at a far younger age than a child who has parents that spend less time engaged with their devices. Furthermore, it’s not just a matter of age appropriateness; the type of technology a child is using also plays a role. Teaching a child basic computer and Internet skills at a young age is essential for success in our rapidly changing world, but encouraging them to use social media or play Angry Birds is something else entirely.
Digital Parents, Digital Kids
It is said the average family brings at least three tech devices with them on vacation. Some hotels will even rent you power strips because there is not enough electrical sockets to plug in all the gadgetry. “Dad, are we there yet?” is no longer something that parents have to listen to on vacation, as kids are mesmerized and entertained by their tablets, smartphones, or the ubiquitous TVs that have been implanted in the back of most seats. For many children, tablet time has replaced story time, and the number of children falling asleep to movies and videos outweighs those who are being read “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Frog and Toad Are Friends.”
If Mom and Dad parent with technology, then their children are going to come to expect technology in their lives. They’ll be the ones wanting a Facebook account when they’re ten, or a smartphone when they’re in elementary school. It makes sense to assume that by parenting less with technology kids wouldn’t come to expect a saturation of devices in their lives.
When it comes to navigating the digital age, parents are going to need some help. Schools have to take an active role in promoting online safety and the importance of privacy. In the end, it’s not about whether or not your middle school child should have a cell phone or a tablet – it’s about teaching Web responsibility. It’s about safeguarding children about the dangers that exist on the Internet. It is ensuring they know the difference between a Facebook friend and a real friend. Hopefully, however, if all goes well, those children will also know how to ride a bike and tie their shoes. Then again, who knows: Flying machines could replace bikes any day now.
About the Author
Porter is a father of two and a tech geek at heart. When he isn’t spending time with his girls he enjoys writing about internet services.
Image courtesy of [David Castillo] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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