Many parents worry about how their children use the Internet and what outside influences they might be exposed to. And while the Internet is perhaps the most powerful manifestation of technology, it’s not even the entire technological picture. Add in texting, television and video games, and you’ve got a recipe for hair-raising parental distress.
Because culture is more pervasive -- reaching children and teens through ever-present channels like social media, cable television and web-browsing smartphones -- parents have lost some of the power they once held in earlier generations to moderate the consumption of culture. Though they might like to try, modern parents cannot be in all places at all times. At its worst, technology may drive families apart; however, technology, when properly harnessed, can bring families closer together.
With the Internet in schools and homes, children and teens now have nearly unlimited access to knowledge that helps them learn and grow like never before. Kids who are visual learners can watch a video presentation as research for a school project, while teens can stay connected to their relatives across the globe through video chat platforms. Modern parents can look for ways that technology meets the developmental needs of their children, suggests PBS Parents. Teens, for example, are working to carve out an identity for themselves, and parents may decide to allow room for safe and creative self-expression through certain online channels.
Jim Taylor, PhD, author of “Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-Fueled World,” published in 2012, encourages parents to assess both the frequency and content of technology exposure. Taylor also challenges parents to gauge the limitations and guidelines they set on technology usage while looking for ways to balance that exposure with other beneficial life experiences and influences. Time spent immersed in technology should not outweigh time spent pursuing physical activities, family togetherness and social activities with peers. Many families choose to craft a media policy that clearly outlines acceptable uses of technology and the consequences of any violations.
Parents Abuse Tech, Too
Parents may worry that their child is spending too much time texting, but a little self-reflection is also a worthwhile endeavor. Research published by clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle in her 2012 book “Alone Together” found that parents are just as guilty -- if not more so -- than kids and teens of failing to unplug and connect in meaningful, face-to-face ways. Turkle advises creating “sacred spaces” in daily life where parents and children give one another their full, undivided attention. She points to the dinner table and the car as two possible spaces where technology should be deliberately left aside and attention refocused. Modeling the responsible use of technology is a powerful way parents teach their children to establish healthy relationships with tech tools.