Parenting in a world where gadgets threaten to weaken family ties is challenging. We want our children informed and capable, to have experience they can use in our ever-changing, tech-driven society. We don’t, however, want our children to forget how to behave socially. We don’t want screens to replace faces and texts to replace real conversation. We wonder just how much all that phone and screen time is affecting our kids in the long-term.
The goal of balance sometimes evades us when busy schedules wear us down and pleas for more iPad and iPhone time weaken our resolve. We find ourselves giving in when we wanted to stand strong. Does it even matter?
Perhaps it’s not about abandoning our gadgets at all. Perhaps the issue is one of self-control. Daniel Goleman who is an author and psychologist says, “…attention is under siege more than it has ever been in human history. We have more distractions than ever before. We have to be more focused on cultivating the skills of attention.”
Mr. Goleman is right about the mounting distractions faced by our children. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in 2010 that half of students between the ages of 8-18 engage in some form of media use while doing homework. It’s plausible to assume that number has risen in the last four years.
According to Colorado State University psychology professor, Doctor Lucy Troop, the answer comes back to balance, “I think it’s adults that don’t adjust to tech-savvy kids. I think a balance is good. As a parent you have to balance how much access you give your kids to these things, but denying them totally and saying it’s bad is silly. It’s not. It’s a good thing.”
The full ramifications of too much technology may be unclear until more research is done, but the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Youth Project suggests that media has changed the way youth learn and socialize. The important thing to remember is that parents and guardians can and should step in to help youth set goals and boundaries instead of letting peer influence take the lead.
While cyber-bullying and unregulated content pose real hazards to the young media user, positive resources and educational opportunities abound online. This is where parents can provide the mentoring and guidance children need to weed through the enormous amount of content available at the click of a button.
So it’s back to moderation even though extremes elude us all. We can help our children navigate this brave new world one text, status update, and tweet at a time.