The tentacles of technology have extended deep into our lives, and parents are panicking. But experts say that parents should simply follow their instincts and be mindful of their own device use
Parents should severely limit the amount of time children spend using technology, as their time would be better spent learning how to develop lasting relationships, says report one. But children should spend enough time in the glow of LED screens to get comfortable with a phenomenon that is likely to play an increasingly significant role in their lives to come, says report two.
These are the two main arguments that have been rehashed and republished in various articles over the past few years, leaving parents scratching their heads trying to figure out: how much technology is too much for my kids?
A lot of what we’re teaching about parenting around technology is just basic parenting
But that is the wrong question to ask, according to Scott Steinberg, co-author of The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks. In Steinberg’s eyes, too many parents abandon their parental instincts when trying to determine how best to integrate technology into their children’s lives.
“A lot of what we’re teaching about parenting around technology is just basic parenting,” he told the New York Times. “It comes down to the golden rule: are they treating others in a respectful and empathetic manner?”
Simple household rules, such as no phones at the dinner table or no screens for an hour before bedtime, go
a long way towards ensuring children remain grounded in reality and develop the interpersonal skills necessary to function in it, adds Steinberg.
But parents must act as role models and practice what they preach for such rules to be effective. A slew of studies have shown that parents are often more addicted to their phones and computers than their children, disrupting family life and negatively impacting their children’s development.
According to a small study conducted earlier this year by Brandon McDaniel, a family and consumer sciences assistant professor at the University of Illinois, parents’ addiction to technology was leading to kids acting out, bottling up feelings, exhibiting aggressive behaviour or regularly crying.
The study added weight to similar research published last year in the journal Current Biology, which revealed that parents who looked at their phones or got otherwise distracted while playing with their children were more likely to raise youngsters with short attention spans, widely regarded as a strong indicator for later success in areas such as language acquisition and problem solving.
McDaniel told the Chicago Tribune in May that parents should engage in a period of self-reflection in order to prevent technology from negatively affecting their families’ lives.
“We need to critically examine our device use,” he said. “Let’s be mindful of how phones can influence us, so that we can be the master of our phones instead of our phones being the master of us.”
This article was published in the October edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here.