Parenting with Technology

Successfully navigating parenting paradoxes in the technological landscape that is modern life.

Technology didn’t do it…

You can’t blame the hammer when you hit your thumb.

In the last few weeks I have experienced an absolutely overwhelming amount of negativity regarding technology, specifically kids using devices.  I have heard all the rants and rhetoric denouncing the use of devices in all ages of people under 30.  I have sat with friends and family members as they discussed the wholesale degeneration of our society because of young people and electronic devices.  I have seen facebook posts and reposts of the “studies” that have decided how our society is on the verge of breakdown and it is all because children are being ruined by the internet and forgetting or not learning in the first place how to function in society. While many of these feelings are real, based and understandable it is my opinion that a large portion of this is simply are adults (parents included) wanting to jump at any excuse to easily explain why the world isn’t turning out the way they had hoped.  They are looking for a scapegoat for their own lack of action, attention or social consciousness and the kids are the easiest target.  However, just blaming the youth for the failure of the world cannot complete their answer because if the youth are the problem, then the parents of the youth are the cause and since it couldn’t possibly be our fault then there must also be a different reason for the youths troubles.  Electronics.  It must be the electronics.  All the devices that permeate our society today are one of the only major differences between today and yesteryear, so it must by default be the devices fault.  Because of the steady march of technological advancement and its constant changing, by definition, it becomes the cause in adult societies mind for the things around us that we don’t like.

In every aspect of life today I see this blame game unfolding.  Our kids spend a lot of time on snapchat so it becomes snapchat, the apps, and the smartphones fault that we don’t spend quality time with our children.  Our children act violently or inappropriately in public and we call it the fault of violence in video games and movies, not our lack of parenting, showing them proper action thru our own example or moral instruction.  We swear often and within earshot of our children every day, but when our children swear, it is the fault of the movies or music they listen too, again they mirror our actions and we blame technology.  The election doesn’t go the way we want, and even though 50% of the adult population didn’t bother to even show up to vote, we blame it on fake news, social media or hackers.  Again technology taking the rap for our own shortcoming and failures.

Technology is NOT ruining your family.  If your family is having problems and technology is involved, it is a family issue and not a technological issue.  If you kids don’t talk to you anymore because they are stuck in a screen, examine how often they TRY to talk to you but can’t because you have your own face stuck in a device.  Maybe you are trying to finish that important email for work, type out that fleeting thought for your blog, or just surfing Facebook or playing candy crush.  If you actually study your own behavior and that of the household you will more often find that tech isn’t the problem with your kids, they are just acting the way you taught them to, either by lesson or by example.  How do we fix that?  We have to change ourself first.  Sit down with your kids and talk to them, and not always to teach or instruct, just talk.  Treat them like humans with needs, feelings and thoughts.  Act around your children the way you would around a client.  Be attentive, ask intelligent questions, and then then shut up and listen to them when they answer.  It won’t change over night, but if you continue on this course, they will over time realize that you like them, enjoy their company and value their opinion.  Tell them how you expect them to act, then show them by living it in front of them.

If your children are acting violently or inappropriately, don’t just take the easy way out and ban games, talk to them.  Tell them and show them the right way to act and examine yourself and see if you are teaching them bad behavior by example.  Ask any teacher and you will probably get a similar answer.  Most of the bad behavior acted out in the classroom is simply mirrored from the behavior of parents or siblings at home.  If parents spent more time parenting by example and less time yelling and preaching at their kids, everyone would be much farther ahead, and teachers would be free to teach subjects instead of social skills.

Lastly, I want to point out that this problem is NOT new.  Today we are down on the kids for always having a cell phone in their hand, 15 years ago it was a game boy, 25 years ago it was a Sony Walkman and headphones, 50 years ago it was the Elvis and the Beatles that were making our kids go to hell.  Before that it was the telephone, hotrod cars or naked knees that led our children down the path of evil.  Heck if you go back far enough, Books were the evil influence poisoning the minds of our youth.

When framed in that way, it sounds as ridiculous as it is.  What do all these things have in common?  They were all the latest rage in their time, and all made possible by technological advancement.  Where any of them really bad?  No, they were just technology that a younger generation took and used in a way that was new, unusual or frankly scary to the older people of their times.  They were change.  Change is hated and resisted, except by the youth, to them these were not items of change, they were the new common place and therefore they were simply extra tools to be used as needed.  Think about that the next time you see a group of young people sitting in a coffee shop all looking into their phones.  You can choose to think how sad it is they aren’t enjoying the moment, or you can realize they are using a tool they have to enjoy it in a different way than you would.  You can comment on how they are together but never talk to each other, or you can see the truth, that they are communicating in way that you don’t understand, but that is common and normal for them.

The next time you feel like technology is ruining your family, look at it closely and after you discount their actions that mirror your own, think about what is left?  What bothers you about it?  Is it that your daughter is staring at a phone?  Think back to when you were young, is that phone she has any different than your Walkman or your guitar, or that Abbey Road album?  Probably not.

Categories: Kids and Tech, Parenting Thoughts

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