Every morning I open up my mails and Fb account only to see that there are more parenting workshops being held around the city and the topic mainly being around Technology.
Unfortunately a one size fit all approach cannot be a solution to this scenario.
In today’s time with so much exposure to technology and options for every choice, Parenting indeed is a challenging job.
Its 7.00 a.m in the morning my son is ready for school before time and guess what’s the conversation we have “mom can I play on the I pad?”how much ever we parents detest technology, its interferes in our daily Personal Time- The time which determines how well we socially connect with people around and how we engage ourselves in activities other than technology.
It’s alarming to see for the fact that technology has taken over more of our personal time which used to be devoted towards social connections and meaningful engagements.
So the question is how do we strike a balance ? few things which I Found from my own observation and practice that works , however starting at an early age and consistency are the two biggest challenge to surpass the same.
1) Stop Instant gratification : `Today’s generation is unfortunately growing up subject to failed parenting strategies. They are always told that they are special and that they can have anything that they want. Children need to learn that there isn’t going to be an easy way always and that results would not always be in their favour. Today children are given medals merely for their participation, thus devaluing the actual achiever of their achievement. We have ways and means to make our children feel comfortable and cocooned, but what we fail to realise is that, we have an entire generation which is growing up with lower self esteem than the previous generation. As parents we need to teach our children to work hard for things that matter, or save up for a game of their own choice or earn tokens to exchange it with what they want.
2) Electronic Cleanse : We are living in a world of FB and Instagram, where everyone is good at showing people that life is amazing .Children need to be explained that the real enjoyment in life comes from meaningful relationships and engagement. As a family we could set aside rule for no gadgets holidays. Lunches/ get together or short vacations to help children relaise the importance of bonding and building relationships. Only if children see us bonding with our sibling and extended families will they do the same. Go ahead pursue a hobby, make time for your old friend!
3) Teach Coping Mechanisms – Listen to them : We know that social media and our cell phones release a chemical called dopamine. That’s the reason when we get a message or response we feel good, that’s why we count the likes and we go back to find out how the instagram post is performing. Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, drink and gamble. In other words it’s highly addictive. We have age restriction on the above but no age restrictions on social media and cell phones which is the equivalent of opening up a liquor cabinet to our children. We have an entire generation that has access to this addiction. This can be very dangerous as children grow up.
As children grow they seek approval of their peers and this can be very frustrating for a parent. It’s a stressful period for the child/ teenager where they want to be a part of different peer groups and peer approval is of utmost importance . Devices and social media are best known to provide that temporary relief than to reach out to someone in these stressful moments.
Children often resort to challenges from peers in order to seek approval and be liked, however parents need to constantly talk to their children about the importance of being happy in a way that they do not need to seek approval for their own existence. Simple activities that help parents and children bond could be a way to keep children unplug from their device and actually have conversations about issues concerning them. Whether you connect over a game of monopoly or UNO or you challenge you son/ daughter for plot 4, children are far happier in the company of adults who enjoy them and who are willing to listen to them unconditionally.
4) Don’t be afraid to say-NO : I wish parents would be less afraid of their children .it’s ok to see your child upset but it’s definitely not ok to let him/her rule over you. The thumb rule is you are the parent and you will decide their screen time schedule and you will have the right to turn off the Wifi when you feel is right. Children feel comforted by parents who define boundaries. Be kind and acknowledge their frustration but don’t ever be afraid to say –NO.
5) Role Model : Yes, finally we are the torch bearers or the captain of the ship- I run my own face book community in the name TeachersHelpTeachers and it requires me to be online most of the times, regulating posts/ comments, posting new posts , moderating events etc thus being available to my device. I try to limit my participation on the group post the kids are home as it’s difficult to teach what you don’t put into practice. It takes effort initially to restrict yourself from checking your phone but then eventually it becomes easier to say No to your gadget and Yes to time with Children.
Even if we are working and children need to do some research, it’s done in the living room where it’s easier for a passerby to keep a watch on what is being researched upon by your child. So create a work desk where everyone can use their device in a living room rather than their own separate rooms and do remember to switch off the Wifi before sleep time.
6) Make good use of technology : First we were facing the ill effects of Television and now we are doing the same with Technology. Well technology is useful as much as we detest it. Technology can simplify schedules, work, and much more. Children can make use of apps to learn about various skills that they are good at. It could be photography, singing, music, coding, and many more. There are certain apps which help to monitor the child’s activity internet activity and be involved in what your child is viewing, texting or messaging online. Technology has the ability to be used to lessen stress and time consuming tasks that steal precious moments away from the family. When we use technology for a purpose there is always a stop cue, i.e. we get done with work and keep the device away, hence encourage children to put technology into use so that they can identify their stop cue.
7) Accept children for who they are : Many a times we find children open up to adults outside their family rather than their own parents. This is mainly because children are afraid of the harsh reactions and judgments. As adults when we want to talk to someone, the least we want is not to be judged or looked down upon. Parents need to make a conscious effort towards being able to listen to their children without passing judgments’ or reprimanding or rebuking them for their wrong doings. After all if they are confessing in you then they are trusting you, and trust is the basis for any healthy relationship. Fear is what takes them disconnect from you. Accept them for their mistakes and embrace them for being open.
There is nothing wrong with social media and cell phone it’s the imbalance.
(Founder- TeachersHelpTeachers- A Social Enterprise in the field of Education..)