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Parenting in a Digital Age

Information Technology is progressively becoming part of our everyday lives, nowadays, parenting and technology go hand-in-hand, and many children are brought up in an environment surrounded by digital devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets.

Modern-day Children are inquisitive about many things. Sometimes, it can feel like a huge task trying to answer all the homework and other related questions they’re asking, but thanks to technology, it has come in handy to help many parents. Children have become more independent with some of their questions, and this has also enhanced their capacity to learn.

Exposing your child(ren) to technology at a young age can have various advantages as it will give them time to harness their technological skills, by the time they reach the age of employment, many of them will have high levels of proficiency in using digital technologies such as software programs and knowing how to perform tasks online and this may mean that there is a likelihood that they stand better chances in the job market.

Many children these days have convenient access to many different educational tools that help them to progress with their learning. There are many online education tools or downloadable applications that can help to improve their experience of education by gamifying the whole experience.

Various studies have shown that children who play video games regularly have advanced cognitive skills compared with those who don’t play such games. It’s further urged that video games that are specifically designed to improve cognition can be extremely beneficial to them.

The above notwithstanding, there is a cost that has come with exposing children to technology gadgets, the following are some of the grey areas where a number of challenges have been noted;

  1. More often, children are given access to computer gadgets where they can access the internet but in most cases, they are left unsupervised whilst using the Internet, thus they are free to visit any website and potentially even get involved with bad actors online as a result they are exposed to various risks including malicious content and graphic pornography.
  2. Some children spend their free time on electronic gadgets without real-life regular interaction with others; this may lead them to grow up without forming the essential social skills that they’ll need for life. This can result in children finding it difficult to form friendships and relationships with others later life.
  3. Childhood obesity is on the increase because children are less likely to seek entertainment by going outside and playing with friends when they can play video games and interact with their peers online. Obesity can lead to children developing some of the Non-communicable disease, such as pressure and diabetes and these can affect the child’s dreams.
  4. Due to the exposure to violent video games and films, some children, sometimes want to practice their newly acquired skills on their friends or siblings, this may not only cause incidents but can also harm their mental and emotional development on top of their academic success.
  5. Addiction to smartphones, computer games and television programs is equally on the increase with its related negative consequences, including effects on children eyesight and unwanted behaviours upon the prohibition of such devices. Children could potentially form behavioural issues that may harm their development as a result of their addiction.
  6. Uncontrolled usage of technology devices especially in classes, or during other activities habituates brains to constantly switch between tasks e.g. social media and classwork which can lead to reduced attention spans leading to Limited performance.

To mitigate some of the risks that have come with digital devices, parents ought to try their best to keep up to speed with the latest technologies where possible. Ask questions where there is doubt, enforce appropriate curfews, consult fellow parents, workmates and encourage open discussion with the child/ren about their usage of smart devices, besides, parents could try out some of   the following controls;

Delay smartphones as long as possible, resist the pressure to give your child/ren a smartphone and don’t leave old phones around. Sexting has become the New Normal to the teenagers especially. Your child(ren) may be exposed to it because there are virtually no parental filters to prevent a nude selfie from arriving on his/her smartphone via WhatsApp or Snap chat, even if he/she didn’t ask for it.

Delay social media as long as possible, it is paradoxical that social media is where the children (teenagers) enjoy their lives and yet it’s also where their lives can be messed up, parents must explore means to mitigate the risks therein if there is a need to remain in constant connection with them when you are far away, use ordinary phones that make calls and receive Short message service (SMS) without necessarily having an internet connection.

Preserve sleep patterns. Make sure all gaming devices such as tablets, laptops, or phones are charged overnight in one place, not in a child(ren)’s room. Click To Tweet Preferably charging station in mom and dad’s room is a better option. This will help in breaking the social media and other gaming addictions.

Make the dining table; car rides together and family vacations phone-free zones. Engage with the children and find out what happened at school, or what’s happening in their lives, let this time not be hurried.  This kind of fellowship brings out very important information that can be used by parents to respond to some of the issues raised.

For parents whose information technology skills can allow, download and Install applications on those smart devices that can control access to certain websites with malicious content and continuously monitor the activity of the smart devices using parenting technology applications you’ll be able to view websites they’ve visited online, and applications they’ve used and taken action accordingly.

Notice how your child(ren) interacts with technology, often when they are knowingly watching something that is discomforting to a parent, they will tend to monitor the parent’s/guardian’s movements and any slight surprise visit, some behaviours will change, they will switch screens or turn off the computer quickly. This could be a pointer to something that you ought to investigate.

Get the child(ren) involved in home chores, sports, after school clubs as they get used to that routine, it will become the new normal as opposed to constantly using digital devices in their free time this will mitigate the risk of your child(ren) becoming lazy.

Parents shouldn’t forget that we are all in this thing (technology) together with the children; therefore parents must be good role models when it comes to technology use, both parents and children need to understand that technology should be used as a learning tool, and should not substitute real-life interactions. Parents should, therefore, practice what they preach to their children.

Get the child(ren) involved in home chores, sports, after school clubs as they get used to that routine, it will become the new normal as opposed to constantly using digital devices in their free time this will mitigate the risk of your child(ren) becoming lazy.

It is important to note that In implementing some of these controls, there is need to balance the boat, unlimited and inappropriate access to children private lives (especially teenagers) where necessary should be minimized, parents shouldn’t look like private investigators, or stalkers of their children, its healthy for them to have some privacy to make their mistakes, but an appropriate level of controls should be maintained depending on the child behaviour, age and the environment.

As with nearly everything in life, technology is not a problem when used in moderation. However, with the current trends of children accessing modern mobile phones, tablets and laptops we need to pursue a technology balance for our children, to capitalize on the benefits and alleviate the negative effects of technology in childhood development.

The writer is a concerned parent

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