This is a technology driven world. We are witnessing a social experiment never seen before. We are normalizing a constant presence of a smart phone in the hands of ourselves and perhaps worse…our children. We as parents desire to filter the proper influences to our children. We want to be positive role models for them. We craft the influences to assist their growth and learning. As young individuals they are malleable to the influences they receive. With a device that is connected to the entirety of the world that has very little to no filter…I respectfully ask; is that an influence you want for your child?
We are in a new age of child rearing. We are children of the greatest technological boom in the many epochs of human kind. I grew up in a small Midwest town. I grew up without a cellphone, without video games, without the internet, without the immediate knowledge of the world at my fingertips. Heck, I used a World’s Encyclopedia collection for my school projects. I also did not grow up with the constant pressure of society strafing through my mind via an application. I did not have a Facebook/Myspace/Instagram/TikTok/or a plethora of other sites that vied for my attention. Many of these things came later in my life, but my beginning of life without it allowed me to enjoy the positive portions of it and reduced the dependency to it.
Challenges of today
The scope of the world has changed, the world wide web has been integrated into our very fibers of everyday life. We can’t drive down an unknown street, go to work, or enjoy a show without its help and literal/figurative connection. We have become beholden to the internet and many branches it has spawned. I do not feel it is directly a bad thing…as long as the big modem in the sky stays on and the power grid keeps slinging juice.
I am thankful to live in this age. We have the highest connection to the mass intelligence of our species. We have robots and algorithms literally solving problems by the millisecond. I can hold in my hand the answers on the location of the closest black hole, the exact number of protons of the element Boron, the incidence of a juvenile astrocytoma, the specific genus of plant in my backyard, the waxing phase of the moon cycle, and the weather 10 days from now. This all occurs in seconds.
We are in a very luxurious time for humans to reside. It has changed education, research, knowledge building and disbursement. We are connected on the whole of our species. We as countries are completing an interchange in seconds compared to months not so many years ago. Data flies in the matter of an instant. It still is a big world, but we are now so very connected.
On another facet of the spectrum, I humbly ask, is it correct that we should become dependent on these luxuries? Is it appropriate that just because it is a trend in society that we as adults, let alone as kids, should become dependent on the powerful device in our hands?
There is study after study showing usage of smartphones at an early age is detrimental to a young developing mind.
There is data to show that children with sustained access to smartphones and or video games have less coping skills.
There is data to show that by consistent problematic smartphone usage, the user's brain changes in multiple anatomical and neurological forms compared to a non smartphone addicted brain.
There is data to show Gen Z, while the most connected generation in humans existence with people across the world, have the highest measures of depression, isolationism, and suicidal ideology.
The common statement of “kids these days” comes to mind. Not my favorite turn of phrase, but I will allow it in this setting. These following statements are not stated in meta analysis fact, more so my pulse on America specific to the generations of Millennials, Gen Z and now Gen Alpha. Many now living in urban environments, spend most of their time indoors. Many children spend hours at a time on video game consoles and or interacting on smartphone applications. There is less face to face communication in general. They will plaster their social media accounts with content, yet in person say three to five English words in succession. There is less actual in vivo socialization with their peers, and most importantly their family. Families go to dinner and I have watched all five individuals to the side of me sit in silence on their phones. There is less physical activity ipso facto there is a widespread epidemic of pediatric obesity in America. There is less learning despite the ease of access. There is a higher percentage of poor behavior, problem solving, mental toughness and the ability to engage socially under stress in a correct manner. School shootings start with most often an isolated angry male that is a pariah of society for many reasons. They become immersed in a social media based world that disconnects from reality.
In social settings if they don’t have their phone, the child is bored and unsure how to utilize their most natural plaything…their imagination.
I do not buy into the statement that this is the hardest time to parent. My children do not have to work in a sewing mill, a coal mine, we are not trekking across our nation in a covered wagon. We are protected from a 500 pound bomb dropping into our front lawn and my kids most likely won’t pass away due to a diphtheria infection.
I do feel we all have our positives and challenges in this world related to the time we come of age and must engage in society. One of our current generation parenting challenges is to connect our children to the correct level of technology. I do not want it to seem like I am tech phobic. I think the mission that lies at hand is teaching ourselves and our children responsible usage of technology. We must raise our children, do not allow unmitigated streams of the world to do your job for you gentlemen.
I am a firm believer in leadership by word and action. That way it is consistent and does not send mixed signals. If we want our children to learn responsible smartphone-video game-technology usage…then we must practice this ourselves. Let them see us put the phone down. Let them NOT see us playing video games/phone usage in the middle of the day when we could be spending time with them. Let them see proper-constructive interaction on social media platforms vs bickering and poor behavior. Let them see and hear our actions and lessons about proper social interaction and discipline when it comes to the luxuries at our fingertips. They are watching.
Caveat: I am certainly not attempting to tell any of you how to parent, I am commenting on mounds of data present from subject matter experts regarding this topic. I am discussing this topic in a widespread view to attempt learning and maturation. We are dealing with systemic challenges in our society, many can be linked to the overuse and misuse of the technology that I am discussing. Note that if I am bringing it to our collective table, you can dang well bet I'm working my tail off over here to enact it in my own life.
Take these quick hits as you will, talk about them with your spouse, toss em, modify them, advance them.
Limit your and your child’s technology time daily. Track to assess how much it is used in the household.
Challenge yourself and family to use less technology in proper forms. What do you learn about yourself and your family?
Change up family time, no phone rule at the dinner table. No phones on family vacations.
No child under the age 12-14 should have a video game console in their room without parental involvement.
Certain phone applications, movies, and or video games should not be played by children of certain ages. No kid that is seven years old should know what the “Squid Games” are, and talk about the people he killed on “Call of Duty”.
Utilize their video games/ phones as an incentive versus an unfettered extension of their body.
At certain ages children should have parental controls placed on certain portions of the internet.
Parents should have access to the child's phone to ensure proper usage of it.
Be involved in your child's technology usage to improve the way it is used.
TALK to your child for sustained periods every day to assess their mental status and connection to school, friends, the world…etcetera.
Challenge your child to be multi dimensional, support them to be good at many things versus just the next TikTok dance.
Challenge your children to be thinkers and leaders, not followers.
Have an open dialogue about the importance of using technology with responsibility.
Children will do what we as parents, as fathers allow them to do. Is it a small child's fault when they react in a way that has been allowed and unchallenged? It is in a child’s nature to stress their boundaries to assess what their barriers are?
It is our job to guide them, teach them to properly interact with the world around them. It is our job to be more involved in the “web” that is technology to ensure they are participating with safety, intelligence, and with appropriate social progress over time.
We do need to hold them accountable with this vast engine of connection in their hands. They are intelligent enough to respect action and consequence. Many understand the basics of moral right and wrong. They are not without responsibility, especially into teenage years. Of course we must all recall how smart and level headed we all were at that age right???
They need help gents. Teach them to use their brains and hearts, before learning how to flip/tap a phone screen or game controller.
I am asking myself and all other parents that, above all, we must hold ourselves accountable. We are charged with showing the path in all ways of this world. Let us practice what we preach, let us preach a message of responsibility, diversity, maturity, devoid of dependency, and one that shows the beauty of the world around us that is not viewed through an electronic glowing screen.
Stay the course gents. I'll be out there with you.