“Papa! Where is your smartphone?” I often find my seven year old daughter asking this question, whenever I am around. Honestly speaking, as a salaried individual who toils all day to make his living, I rarely get time to spend with her; that is apart from weekends, to be precise. So, an after dinner conversation is what I would appreciate rather than just giving away my smartphone to her to fiddle with before she retreats to bed. On a hindsight, I can just be content about the fact that she is enjoying a game in the device. Not to mention, playing games can help her gathering skills like taking decisions in a fraction of second, hand-eye coordination, etc. However, when to draw the line is what I and many other parents need to learn in this digital age we live in.
Here are a few aspects we as parents need to keep in mind when we permit or deny access of technology to our kids:
Technology Knows No Boundaries
Technology is evolving every passing day. Gone are the days when we were limited to playing those pre-installed games in arcade or on those home-devices with 1GB hard-disk space. We are in the age when games get installed in less than a minute through online App stores. And believe it or not, our kids know far far more about such stuff than we do. Many of them have gadgets like the PS3’s and Xbox’s in their vicinity to game day in and day out. And just like my daughter, many others would ask for our smartphones to play around with.
This is just about gaming. Kids, especially teens, also love to surf and being pally through social networking sites. They also love texting, all day long and even during nights. Being seamless, technology has given them the wings to connect and to explore newer avenues. And we as parents need to understand that as technology has its perils as well.
Where to Draw The Line
Being parents, we care for our kids more than ourselves. And why not! They mean the world to us. We understand that their exposure, or engagement if I put it more appropriately, to technology is essential for their overall grooming. But, we need to draw a line somewhere. With excess screen time comes psychological problems. Same is reported in a Kaiser Family Foundation study about children aged 8-18 who spent 7.5 hours per day on average before computers, tabs, etc. And while doing so, they can get exposed to something inappropriate or may get victimized of bullying by peers.
If I talk about time, kids below eight years should not spend more than two hours before screens of any type, and kids below two, not a minute. If I talk about teens, they are sometimes hard to handle when we insist on limiting their gadget time, unless spent on educational purposes. However, we as parents need to deal with them gently and make them understand what is healthy for them today as well as in years to come.
Preference Or Addiction
As parents, we also need to know when technological engagement is a preference for our kids and when it is an addiction. Some kids like to spend time in the evenings playing video games rather than going outdoors. Such kids function fine without a gadget but prefer to have one around. Problem comes when kids can’t stay without their preferred gadget and crave for it if its not around. That’s when we parents need to take charge of things and fix the problem at hand on urgent basis.
Technology Should Bring Us Close To Our Kids
As parents, it’s important for us to realize that we can hone technology to bring them close to us. Of-course I won’t like my daughter glued on a tab screen on dinner table or while the family gets together during weekends. The remedy can be a properly chosen online game that we can play with our young kids and enjoy together. As parents, it’s important for us to focus on what unites the family and not isolate them.
Secondly, to ensure that our kids are not exposed to inappropriate content its best to have parental control mechanisms implemented on the gadgets used in homes. However for teenaged kids, its best to be their buddies and deal with the situation accordingly. Its equally important for us to spend quality time with your kids no matter what their age group is.
Appropriate exposure is the word! Its essential for our kids to get accustomed to technology as its now an integral part of our lifestyle. However, as parents we need to make our kids understand that a balance between technological engagement and life in general is what is the best for them. Its a problem if our kid cannot spend even ten minutes without a gadget in hand. Its also a problem if a walk in a park or a face to face discussion is what he is hesitant towards.
Our role is to make our kids understand that we live connected in all aspects of our lives. And connecting digitally is just one form of it.