Parenting in the face of High Technology
Over the past 10 years or so we have seen a surge in technology of which the fastest growing has been in the form of texting: MP3s, iPods, broadband internet, ultra connectivity, any place, anywhere. Of course some of its effects have been positive especially the ability to connect with family members instantly when necessary. For parents and particularly those who have kids with special needs that equates to peace of mind. Likewise for the child with a disability. But additionaly, kids with disabilities can connect with others in ways never before imaginable. While all the physical and formidable barriers still exist like curbs and stairs, high tech gadgetry levels the social playing field.
However connectivity has also paradoxically resulted in isolation for many young people. Religious and lay Community leaders, as well as celebrities have often had the experience of attendees who text throughout their presentations, leading one to ask “Did they get anything from the discussion?”
Studies in Europe indicate that young people who grow up living their lives through this intense technology are experiencing difficulty in forming real relationships with real people as adults. Yet, technology is here to stay. So how do parents react in a world bombarded with the “iCulture” or the shrinking influence of the family and the loss of its support system?
The concern for most parents tends to be with content rather that how much time a child is electronically engaged. But in all things there should be moderation. This was formerly instituted by way of curfews, timeouts and groundings. If today, the main concern is content, then the threat of communal isolation becomes real with the frightening certainty of addictive behavior. Unfortunately there are many examples of teens and young adults going crazy – literally – just because something goes wrong with their computer game and it has to be turned off.
Communication is the basis of a healthy lifestyle and technology is a tool that has its value. When it threatens human relationships by allowing the next generation to gallop into an increasingly isolated world where a request to remove a headphone in conversation is considered worse than a curfew, then the whole world is at risk.
Technology is moving at a speed faster than adults can comprehend or control. The question is when should the teaching of principles and values based on family begin if children are being given these technology tools at a very early age? It has been suggested by Malcolm Gauld, President of Hyde Schools, that simultaneously with the introduction of these gadgets from early childhood, adults should promote conversation , set limits when it is inappropriate to use them and most of all, pay attention to what is being said. When children understand that people are not only interested in what they have to say but are more important than games and gadgets by the models set in their daily lives, then the self discipline to disengage completely from an inanimate object in respect for others becomes automatic, leading to the far more admirable quality that will eventually build their character to make correct choices and become the best adults they can be.