Technology has touched virtually all aspects of modern life — including parenthood, and probably in more ways than many would like to admit. Instead of complaining about the increasingly digital world, it’s important to recognize how technology influences children and parenthood.
As technology evolves, so do the issues parents face with their children. How much screen time is too much? How can parents use technology to make their jobs easier? How can children stay safe online? Can it bring their family closer together?
Two Sides of Technology
Technology is neither good nor evil. It is what it is: a useful tool that has a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Each person uses technology to fit their lifestyle, and parents are no exception.
Some parents may use screen time as a reward for good behavior or reduce the amount of screen time as a consequence of negative behavior. Some parents may not allow their children to use screens altogether.
Regardless of how adults choose to use technology when parenting, it’s important that both parents and children understand its dangers. When children do use technology, parents should do their best to ensure they have a safe, positive experience.
Parenting Obligations Have Changed
From online predators to cyberbullies to mature content, it can feel impossible to keep children safe online. However, it’s just as important for children to be safe online as it is in any other situation. The digital world is simply a new realm of parenting to navigate.
Monitoring messages and activity, blocking mature content, and warning of unsafe strangers will only do so much. Parents also have to teach their children about how to protect private information. If children are old enough to have internet access, they are old enough to begin learning online safety practices. The sooner they learn internet safety, the more protected they’ll be.
Today, parents have more to learn, and even more to discuss with their children, about online safety.
Many websites have unclear privacy settings, making information surprisingly easy for people to view, steal, and manipulate. Rutgers University notes that 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years, and the recent Facebook scandal shows how vulnerable all of that data is.
Children, in particular, do not know how important it is to keep information private, and what information might be too private to share. Even for adults, that can be hard to know. Photos carry data that can reveal where they were taken, which can be viewed by people if shared on social media. Strangers may be able to learn the location of a beloved vacation spot or family member’s home.
Children, Technology, and the Future
Generation Alpha faces a unique future. They will grow up with technology in a way their parents never did. Some parents-to-be are registering email addresses and Twitter handles for their unborn children, to ensure their child’s name isn’t taken by someone else. They are choosing to have their children embrace technology from before the beginning.
This raises new sets of concerns. Parents are already concerned about sharing photos and information about their children on their own profiles because it violates kids’ privacy. Is it okay to take and post photos of them when they are too young to consent? How do parents share those captured moments with loved ones who live far away? Children may want to be in charge of their own digital lives, and the digital footprint that parents leave behind may encroach on that.
There is no right or wrong answer; parents will have to navigate these issues in a way that works best for their family. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The internet is just a new environment that parents need to learn how to navigate safely with their children. Parents’ primary concern is still to ensure that their children grow up in a safe and loving environment.
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Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @ataylorian with any questions or suggestions.
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