Parenting and Technology: Raising Kids to Be Tech Savvy, or Life Savvy?

Having raised seven children over the span of two decades, I have noticed a marked difference in ones who have been raised in the technological age, as opposed to the ones raised twenty years ago. Of course the benefits of technology are obvious, but those “benefits” could be the very things that disguise the detriments; underdeveloped life and communication skills.

The technological “time savers”, have created a void, that craves to be filled with more technology. The addiction to gadgets to entertain and communicate seems to feed on itself. Take cell phones, for example. The age at which cell phones are given to children is getting younger and younger. And rather than being a tool to use “in case of emergency,” children are using them to communicate to one another through texting, up to and beyond two thousand messages per month! This often occurs not only at home, but in the classroom, or while driving the car. This is obviously distracting at the least, and dangerous at most. In the classroom texting has replaced the old “note passing” of the preceding generation, and handily competes with the somewhat archaic voice of the teacher, who has to now vie for the students’ attention.The teacher also has to compete with technological systems that are able to shovel in information at a much faster rate than the words of a mere human being. This can create boredom, which can lead to behavioral problems in students.

Children are now learning to give and receive information in a two-dimensional world, primarily through their eyes and fingers, and lack the three dimensional person to person contact, which uses all of their five senses. The enjoyment of actually “being with ” another human being is not experienced as often as communicating with technological tools. The verbal communication skills of children of all ages has atrophied, leaving relational gaps with not only their peers, but parents and teachers as well. After school and week-end time has shifted from unstructured social and physical activity, to one of passive interaction with a TV screen, computer monitor, or video game system. This is, of course,is interrupted by the sending and receiving of text messages. There is increasingly less and less to talk about with parents, and others in the community, as life is lived on a pseudo, vicarious level. This type of life may be appealing because it is less risky. It is easier to send an e-mail, or text to confront someone, than to do it in person. But there is a whole dimension of living that is virtually untapped in childrens’ lives. And, if left untapped, if will affect their ability to perform well on a job interview, or communicate well with their spouses, children and co-workers in the future.

Although the age of technology has come with amazing benefits, I would like to offer some practical suggestions to add a variety of experiences to a child’s growth and development. After all, as parents we are responsible to care for and nurture the ones entrusted to us. This includes their emotional, spiritual, and mental well being. First of all, block off some portion of each day as “quiet time”. This is not the punishment of “time out”, but rather a time to reflect, read, or actually talk to someone. Second, limit the use of video systems, gadgets, computer, t.v., etc., to encourage unstructured physical activity, or creative play time.. Any of these may seem like archaic activities, but can begin to offer a pulse to the creative mind hidden within each child. Lastly, take the parental reins that have been given to you, and set some goals and boundaries. Talk about them with your children. Embrace your role as a parent, and don’t be afraid to go against the tide!