5 Ways Technology Changed Parenting
Things have changed a lot since we were kids. The internet is full of memes about how different our childhoods were. Nostalgia about a simpler time always seems to come with a tinge of ‘and that’s what’s wrong with kids today’ but just looking at the negatives isn’t always the best way. Sure kids today have different experiences than we did, but they also in many ways live in a completely different world. The technological age has changed not just how kids experience their childhoods but how their parents experience parenting.
Everything you ever wanted to know is just a click away.
They say with knowledge comes power, and with an internet connection, you have access to an unlimited amount of human knowledge. Parents today are expected to know everything, all the time, forever. No longer can we just slide by like our parents with an “I don’t know” because even if we don’t know, we can know in just a few minutes with some judicious clicking. The benefit of course is our children are getting better answers to their questions than at any other time in human history. While our parents may have felt the pressure to fudge answers when we were kids to keep their reputation of “knowing things” on solid ground, there’s no longer any shame or stigma for parents to just quickly look something up and get the real details.
Great power comes with great responsibility though. As much as the internet is a magical place where anyone can share their knowledge, it’s also a minefield of bad information. Anyone can share their knowledge on the internet, even if that knowledge isn’t really backed up by facts or reality. What’s worse is with the rise of machine learning, algorithms may not always function the way you think they would, so the medical website you found may not actually sort your symptoms towards what’s most common and likely to be the cause, instead preferring to just tell everyone the worst case scenario in an attempt to avoid lawsuits. Do you have a cold or cancer? You can’t always trust the internet to get it right.
While having knowledge at your fingertips is a great and awesome thing, don’t be fooled into thinking you know everything, and keep a few trusty experts on speed dial in case you really need to know the actual answer to something that’s important.
We’re more connected.
Snapping a selfie at the park with your little one and zooming it over to the grandparents is easier than ever. Documenting your child’s life at an almost insane level of detail has become commonplace. Having a digital backup of every new experience, haircut, drawing, etc. is going to change the way our kids are able to look back on their childhood forever. While we were growing up, a formal family pic every year and some candids around holidays or on vacation were normal, but now your child may have nearly all of their life photographed and documented on social media including anecdotes for context and hashtags galore.
We’re more disconnected.
However, it is also good to keep in mind that sometimes the phone has to be put away. Sure it’s cute to have a video of junior finally conquering the big slide on the jungle gym, but what’s even better is having an engaged parent with both hands-free to hug and help. Just like watching a concert through a phone screen isn’t the same experience as being fully engaged in the music, so goes day to day life with your child. Sitting on the park bench enjoying watching your child play and living in the moment is a way better use of your time than playing a game on your phone while they galavant around outside. That’s not to say you should never retreat into a rousing game of swiping candy around the screen, but like everything else, balance is best.
We’re never bored.
Between libraries making book checkout available digitally and streaming services, we’re never far away from entertainment. Books, movies, games, they’re all available 24 hours a day now to anyone with an internet connection. Never again do we have to suffer the plight of a closed library, a movie rental place that just rented the last copy of the movie we wanted to watch to another family, or even just missing a TV show because of traffic. Anything you’re interested in watching, listening to, or chatting about is ready for you all the time forever.
We’re losing our creativity.
Having all answers collected for you can negatively affect your ability and motivation to think for yourself. If something breaks at home instead of learning how it works and coming up with a solution we’re just as likely to go see if someone’s done a step by step tutorial. That’s fine when the dishwasher is spraying water and soap all over the kitchen, for sure. What about if you want to make something though? Are you spending time working out in your head what you need to get regarding materials, relying on your own creativity to make a plan and enact it? Or are you just checking boxes and getting another generic craft done so you can move on to binge-watching the latest show?
Technology, like all things, is an exercise in finding balance. Moderation can be a hard line to straddle. With all the good things that technology has brought us through increased opportunities, vast amounts of knowledge and a quick way to change and adapt to our world, it also has a few downsides. Finding the right balance for your family can be tough. Trying to go without technology completely might be fun for a few days, but it’s unlikely to hold up in the long term. Remember it is not an all or nothing proposition, and even after cutting back you may find you need or want it more than you realized and that’s okay. The solution for each family is so different that it is impossible for a stranger to tell you what, when, why and how of technology. There are as many solutions as there are pictures of cats on the internet! Do what is best for your family and your family’s needs and keep asking questions.