A close friend and colleague posted the following which led to an interesting conversation and plenty of eye-opening feedback:
In today’s ever-evolving world of technology, with the ability to bring information and knowledge to its user- What is Age Appropriate when it comes to Technology? The following are 3 issues to contemplate when providing technology into the hands of your kids.
Identify The Benefit of Use
“I give it to them to keep them busy and out of my hair,” is NOT an acceptable reason in terms of good parenting. Sorry-but there must be a purpose for your child to have a tablet or smartphone. Anytime you put technology, or anything new, into the hands of a child, they will be engaged. Something as simple as a new pen can be just as engaging as a tablet. Granted, the tablet is visually much more stimulating. However, depending on the situation, the pen may offer more engagement to a child with the simple addition of your attention coupled with a stack of blank paper. An iPad may offer apps, but you must make sure that the apps are specific to challenge and engage your child. Make sure it is meaningful to them- If they love music, make sure music and instrument apps are available. If they like to build, make sure they are engaged in something that will expand their interest, like MineCraft!
Simply handing them, or getting them, a phone or tablet does not guarantee engagement or a pleasurable experience. The tools should not be used just to occupy the interest and time of your children so you can “relax”. Social media has opened the door to a paradox of social engagement that we must keep a close eye on. A high number of teenagers admit that they feel more accepted online than in real life, but an even higher percentage say they have seen or been a part of cyberbullying someone online! It is a tool that can provide powerful information and knowledge, or deadly sadness and regret to your kids. Make sure technology is not used as a replacement of you- as true interaction between parent and child can NEVER be replaced!
Changing the “When I Grew Up…..” Mind-frame.
Does the image below bring you back to the era when cell phones were first introduced?
“If someone needs to contact me, they will find a way or they can wait till I get home!” sound familiar? Making decisions on whether or not technology will have a true use in the future is difficult to understand when we have no past scenario or use case to make decisions from. It didn’t take long to understand the necessity of a cell phone if you were involved in the business world where deals take place at a moments notice and millions can be lost if you failed to stay in contact. Many parents today say “Who does my son/daughter need to communicate with at 8, 10, or 12?”- Sound Familiar? “There is no reason for my child to have a $200, $300, $400+ toy to play with.”- or is there?
Think about yourself- Why did you end up with a cell/smart phone? It wasn’t because they became smaller in size. It helped to solve a need in your life, or more importantly, a need created by a society moving to mobile technology. For all, it is a simple need to stay in touch- with family, with friends, with news, with business. Most of us, as adults, do not truly use the full power that can be utilized with technology. We talk about what it can deliver in terms of knowledge, information, and education- but always about delivering to the younger generations. Why, though, don’t adults of all ages also take advantage of the knowledge and information it can deliver? Adults become silo-ed into relying on what worked for them growing up. Unfortunately, the younger generations are growing up in a world that is unlike anything in history. If we try to raise our children by the same standards that we were raised, the younger generation will be competing globally at a huge disadvantage. If you choose to withhold technology from your children- It will be like sending your children with a bicycle to race against those who own a motorcycle!
Level of Responsibility
Understand that simply buying an expensive device for your child does NOT make you a responsible parent. However, a level of responsibility is needed for parents to understand when a child may borrow a device from the parent, or when the parent may actually purchase a device for the child! Every child is different, and when to place technology into their hands will be different for each child, even in the same family. Age is a factor, but should not be a deterrent. Can a 7-year-old have a new iPhone? If there is an identified benefit and he or she shows the maturity to care for a device properly, then why not? However, if your child is willing to run out onto a basketball court with their new $500 iPhone in hand, does it matter what age they are? What they are showing you is a lack of responsibility, and thus should not have an expensive device purchased for them.
Once you recognize that there are huge benefits for your child’s future in putting technology into their hands, and change your mindset to be open to providing it, it only leaves you to decide what, when, and how to provide it. This is about providing support for your child’s future, not providing for your child’s happiness. This is about providing better education options for your child, not providing for your child what you did not have yourself.
Once you understand the true benefits to your child’s future using technology and change your mind-frame to what the world will be through your child’s eyes, you will only need to determine what level of responsibility your child can handle. Parents must stop trying to be their child’s “Best Friend” and focus on being their “Best Parent”. It can be this simple. Your focus, as a best friend, is to provide happiness. Developing responsibility is recognized to be an adult to child teaching- parents, teachers, coaches, etc.- and becomes foggy when parents are more interested in being their best friends. Being a parent means more than being a friend- and with it, comes great responsibility. Use the situation to teach about responsibility if needed. There is nothing wrong with telling your child “NO, you will have to borrow mine”, but it is better for their future to tell them “Yes, but only when you display the level of responsibility to own one.” Your child will either rise to the challenge and develop the maturity, or they will confirm the lack of responsibility by simply displaying it.
What are your thoughts?
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