Technology has done a lot to make our lives easier. From instant communication to being able to find an answer to nearly any question in seconds. From cellphones to tablets, gaming devices and computers our homes are filled with tech gadgets. While useful in many ways it is tough to deny that technology has made parenting harder.
Each gadget presents a new threat and a new opportunity. Those of you who enjoy SWOT analysis might have fun creating a parenting with tech SWOT.
Many advances in tech make parenting easier. Anyone with a tablet, a young child, and the need to take a long car trip knows what I’m talking about. However, challenges still exist. Read on to discover some of the challenges tech presents and suggestions for solutions.
How Technology Has Made Parenting Harder
Tech As A Carrot And A Stick
Next time you head to the store or go out to eat, try to count how many children have a device. It doesn’t matter if it’s a phone, a tablet, or something else. Odds are you’ll see way more kids with gadgets than you might expect. It’s admittedly easy to hand a device to a frustrated child and let them watch a show. Devices have become the babysitter that doesn’t eat out of the fridge or forget to turn lights off.
It’s true that technology can benefit children. It’s when parents start to hand over traditional parenting duties to tech that problems arise. Tech can be used as a reward (the carrot), such as when a child earns good grades. It can also be used as a punishment (the stick) if those grades aren’t so hot.
Rather than teaching a child to perform just to receive some instant gratification, I recommend helping your child internalize why good performance is important. We don’t want good grades so we can play an extra hour of Angry Birds. We want good grades because that will help us later in life and is a source of pride.
Information overload occurs when a person just has too much info at their disposal. It’s an overload because they can’t possibly manage to make sense of every last detail. With the plethora of child activity tracking apps, digital school reports, internet monitoring and more it’s tough to decide what to focus on. Maybe your child’s physical location is the most important. Maybe it’s grades. Regardless, tech can overwhelm when we have too many options.
This presents an issue for parents and children. Parents might end up spending money on paid apps and then feel compelled to always check them. That’s a big time commitment. Children, on the other hand, might feel an invasion of privacy. This makes it tough to be a kid.
Expanding on that last point, let’s go back in time. As a kid I knew dinner was at 6. If I got my homework done I could go out and play with neighborhood friends. However, I best be home by 6 if I wanted to eat. My parents didn’t have an app to track me. They trusted that I would behave and stay out of trouble. Like any kid I mostly stayed out of trouble. If I did mess up too much you better believe my parents would hear about it from a neighbor. This allowed me to explore my own freedom with some boundaries.
When someone is looking over your shoulder all the time it’s tough to be yourself. How many of us working from home feel this way when a manager wants to check in throughout the day via video?
Back in the day we heard about Stranger Danger. Parents told us not to talk to strangers, don’t take gifts from strangers and certainly don’t get in their vehicle.
Pretty straight forward stuff. That is no longer the case.
Today parents have to worry about physical and cyber threats. From online predators trying to find children to bad actors committing fraud, the threat landscape has expanded.
Technology has made parenting harder because we now have to worry about who our children are talking with online and the content they are consuming. This also includes the unfortunate incidents of cyberbullying.
It’s impossible to guard against every possible threat, so it falls to parents to decide what is most important. This could involve setting strict internet usage rules. Parents could also require their children receive frequent talks on how to stay safe online.
It’s tough since tech changes at such a rapid pace. However, this is just one of the additional considerations parents have in a tech-first world.
You’d think with all the tech in the world parenting decisions would be automated. A smooth if…then algorithm to answer all our parenting questions. If only life was that easy.
The increase in decisions is yet another way that technology has made parenting harder for the modern parents. With the number of options, from devices to usage rules, it can be tough to set boundaries. Is it acceptable to stay up late on the computer if it’s for a school project? What about if that project requires collaboration with classmates? Should children be allowed to have social media accounts? If so, do parents get a say in what is posted and who is friended?
Those are all tough decisions that we have to make each day. This can be tricky as kids seem to pick up new tech with little trouble. As your kids grow and know more about tech than you do it can be tough to make the right decisions.
The Learning Opportunity
Part of the solution to this issue is teaching kids how to make the right decision from a young age. If we as parents can impart good morals and sound decision making some of the burden is lifted as children age. They know, for example, that responding to an email claiming they’ve won $100K is a bad idea. We don’t have to set email restrictions because we’ve taught them what is acceptable and what isn’t. Same for social media. Maybe we monitor accounts when children are first using the platforms. As we advise and guide them the hope would be that they pick up on good habits. They are then able to make the correct decision for themselves.
I’m the first to admit that I love tech and all it has provided for in my life. A career, entertainment, and more cat videos than I’ll ever watch. However, it has admittedly made life a bit more challenging. This is especially true from a parent’s perspective. While I don’t advocate for a no-tech rule in any household, it is important for parents to educate themselves on the risks inherent in using any device.
Yes, technology has made parenting harder. We can still manage as parents by deciding what is acceptable, how you will inform your kids of the risks, and by staying well-educated.