Friday, May 21, 2021

Technology & Families: What Does It Mean For You?

 Technology is making huge waves in the world, but if there is one place that people struggle the most with technology, it’s at home. Parents want their children to engage with them, but children want to find some escape from the pressures of social lives and school and turn to technology as a result. Parents want to know that their children are safe, but teenagers often feel that their privacy is more important and will keep secrets about their actions online. Technology and families are often a contentious issue because a lot of parents don't know how to relate to their children enough to make technology an easier conversation. There is a lot to be said for teenagers being safe online, and parent or not, we all must make the online world as safe for our kids as possible.

With the best firewalls and the best conversations, though, you can’t always monitor every single moment your children have online. You want them to avoid talking to strangers, but the internet world allows strangers to look like their friends at the click of a button. The line between safe and not safe blurs all too easily, and parents don't want to read conversations that their children are having. They want to be able to get involved without butting into actual conversations - it’s hard. It’s very hard to be a family and have the influence of technology in front of you, but that’s the world in which we are privileged enough to live in.

So, what’s the solution here? What do we do to find that difficult balance between openness with our children and respect for their privacy? Popular culture and technology can ruin the relationship between a parent and a child, but it’s only the case if they allow there to be a divide between them. Over the past twenty years, multiple TV shows have been shown to children to show them that parents are boring, immature and unable to love them without control. Think about shows like Malcolm in the Middle and Family Guy - these alone show parents as not capable of being parents, and children are fed a message that their parents aren't good enough. The expectations that their parents are lame are higher than ever. Throw in screen time limits, a lack of “yes” when asked for DrDrone products and a need for parents to keep a leash on their kids? It’s chaos. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Image Source: Pexels

Children and teenagers should be able to use technology with the trust of their parents. They should also be open to learning as much as possible about the reasons their parents are so concerned. As a family, you have to come together to discuss technology and the way it’s used. You have to decide as a group, a team, that technology can have huge benefits in each of your lives but that there has to be a line drawn to ensure that you are all safe while you do it. There has to be family time as a balance, and there has to be boundaries respected that children can impose themselves. Instead of parents lying down, they should treat their children with respect and talk to them about what they need. There should be time carved to be a family together and say hello, to discuss the day that has passed and air any issues and problems to figure out together. Family time should never be replaced with technology, but technology shouldn't be banned, either.

Children need to use technology for homework. They use it to talk to their friends, as an outlet to be creative and to play games. Yes, parents out there are going to panic about child molestors and scammers working their way into the lives of their children. The thing is, if you don't at least try to trust that you have taught your children well, you’re not going to get very far! You can talk together about the dangers of strangers online but if you don't allow your children to demonstrate that they have learned from you, what do you do? Parents, you need to let go. 

We’re in no way saying that you need to give your kids completely free rein online. However you do need to give them an inch! You have to remember that when you were there age you would have killed to be able to do stupid dances on TikTok and share social media memes. You would also have found the attention you got online flattering as any teenager does. Instead of scaring your kids into fearing the use of technology, you need to foster an environment of open conversation. Currently, we have a generation of millennial parents coming to the time their own children are teenagers. We’re the generation that grew up with GoPro and drones, Facebook and The SIMS. We’ve listened to the talks about social media and the dangers of chat rooms. We’re the parents that are just as immersed in social media as our kids are, and we have to make sure that they understand the use of technology in their world and how it can be misused.

Image Source: Pexels

Your family life doesn't have to fall by the wayside in favor of technology - not at all. Instead of cutting it out, you can embrace it. Plan a family games night filled with virtual reality escape rooms, buy fitness watches and hold challenges with your children so that you can all get fit together. Technology can offer your whole family the chance to be together as much as it can encourage independence in the kids. When we were little, we had to send letters and wait for weeks for a reply. Now, children send a text and we can find out what they’re up to. That’s the beauty of technology, too, we are more connected, not less! 

Get online and be online with your children, and just find a balance from the screen to personal time together. The fact is that we are no longer in the 1950s where people would come home and sit together around the table. Even back then, parents would read the paper together over breakfast and the kids would talk and play with toys. We’ve spent generations making sure that we have other interests along with being interested in each other. Today, we use the TV and the tablet. Life is busy with work and social lives, and children have school and friends to consider. That doesn't mean that technology has to be detrimental. As a parent you can get online and play Minecraft with the kids. You can go out with PokemonGO! And have fun together while you’re out on a walk. You can take the drone out and see whether the Frisbee you lost years ago is on the roof. Silly things like that mean a lot to children, and it helps you to get into their world.

Are there dangers of technology? Absolutely. But there are also dangers with driving on the road, and instead of avoiding driving, you get out and learn how to do it. When you are afraid of the water, you get in and learn to swim so you don't drown. With technology, you teach your children how to see the dangers and what to do about it. You teach them that you are an open book and if there is a problem, they can come to you and you won’t judge. Technology is enhancing lives and yours is included in that.

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