So here’s the thing, I LOVE tech! The buttons, the lights, the whizzbangery, the apps, the ability to do everything and nothing all at once, the way it connects people, places, memories, hopes and dreams. The very fact that I can write on a keyboard and express my love of writing is a testament to the coolness that is technology.
But there is another side to the speed, the power, the life altering versatility of technology that has become somewhat of a frustration of mine over the past years, especially when dealing with young people. Parents, with all the love and respect that I can muster, I implore you, stop using tech as a surrogate parent, cheaper version of outsourced parenting, shiny carrot or some other harmless extension to your child rearing bag of tricks. My take on what is happening with many kids nowadays, is that their parents are becoming less and less in touch with the reality of technology but have increased their reliance on it when it comes to their children. Again, with much love and honesty, I put to you 4 reasons why this happens:
- You’re Lazy
- You’re irresponsible
- You underestimate the enemy
- You’re ignorant
At least you’re still reading so that’s positive!
My reasons aren’t meant to offend, well ok, they are! But the heart behind them has your best interests in mind.
1. You’re lazy
All you need to do is study 2 parents for a second or two interacting with their child and the most peculiar conclusion will pop itself to the surface. PARENTING IS HARD! Unlike your desktop, shortcuts don’t seem to have the end result that one would hope for. When it comes to technology, cellphones, tablets, phablets, apps, social networking, social media, search engines etc. The list seems never-ending and has new gimmicks and functionalities added seemingly on an hourly basis. because of the rapid growth and the fact that parenting in itself is hard, we should expect that even though technology may speed things up, we need to keep our fingers on the pulse. It’s not a nanny you can offload your kids onto! So stop it! It never has nor ever will be easy to take a burping, slurping, gurgling baby, journey through the breaking, scraping, crying and sighing toddler years, conquer the even greater burping, slurping and gurgling of the teenage phase and arrive at a solid, equipped and ready for action adult, technology won’t change this fact!
2. You’re irresponsible
Close your eyes and imagine the following. Your young son, perhaps just cresting thirteen years of age, has just one desire. A shiny brand new 9mm automatic hand gun. Like any good parent, you don’t want your child to be the only one in the class not armed to the teeth with the latest and greatest that money has to buy. So you succumb to the pressure, but not only do you give the gun, oh no! In an attempt to show just how much you love your child and perhaps as an attempt to appease the guilt you feel for working too much and outsourcing your responsibilities to some cellphone app, you place in the box a full magazine of freshly minted hollow point bullets, because only the best will do. Heck, while you’re at it you give him the keys to your Porsche too, because even though he can’t drive, is too young to drive and doesn’t have a licence, you have faith in his abilities to make the right choices!
Ok, so that is a stretch, but I wanted to set the scene. Obviously, no one will be shot for real during the final level of which ever Call of Duty your child is most hooked on and no actual blood is being spilled as you enjoy a Sunday afternoon hit and run while playing Grand Theft Auto, but have a look at your child and then compare their age to that little number appearing on the back of the game box, if they differ, ask yourself the following question, do I believe the number is a suggestion for the number of people who can play the game in multiplayer mode, or does it act as an indication of who should/should not be playing the game?
The same can be said with handing your children their own phones, tablets, laptops etc. I’m not saying don’t, I’d be a complete hypocrite seeing as my 5-year-old loves racking up high scores on my iPad. But here’s the thing, as parents we are gate keepers, shepherds and guides for our children. We aren’t out to win popularity contests and yes sometimes it may feel like the Taliban hold a higher place on your child’s cool list, but we are here to protect their hearts and guide their choices until such time as they can make good choices or at least appreciate the consequences of bad ones and learn from them.
I find it remarkable that parents, especially Christian ones, can have all forms of standards relating to what their kids can and cannot watch or listen too, but age restrictions and access to technology go uninhibited. Be smart, be responsible, be cautious. Don’t raise your kids in the dark ages but at the same time don’t throw them to the wolves hoping they will survive. Bullets and car crashes can be final, but the long-term effects of fortuitous violence during a game or the emotional and spiritual bondage that can be awakened with content from the internet and social media can be just as damning and worse can go undiagnosed causing long-term collateral damage.
3. You underestimate the enemy
Perhaps it is a little unfair to label technology as the enemy, but it is nevertheless underestimated. Many feel technology is our faithful servant, the challenge is that it is not so much a servant as it is a conduit. Technology essentially provides us with a never-ending and ever-increasing access to everything. Entertainment, education, news, facts, fiction, social interaction, love and the list flies into the sunset. We have access to anything we want through the channels technology provides. From a pizza delivered straight to you door, online shopping via your cellphone, meeting new people, completing work, creating a company and selling a house. These are all items actionable because of our access to different forms of technology. The challenge is, like any conduit, we have to be careful that we are filtering our access and when it comes to our kids, ensuring that what they have access to is monitored. Whether it’s a social predator, cyber bullying or pornography embedded in our childs favourite gaming site set as a trap to hook them much like a drug dealer does with that first free taste. The access can be wonderful, but lets understand, the people controlling the access are often too young to know better, unwitting or unaware of the long-term effects. Again, this is where our roles as gate keepers becomes so important. My job is not to prevent my kids from interacting with a technological world that will be more familiar to them one day than it ever was for me, my job, amongst others, is to ensure they eat soft foods when they have no teeth and only give them access to a steak when they know how to chew, swallow or choose to be vegan, else they run the risk of choking and it would be foolish of me to expect anything else.
4. You’re ignorant
Probably the hardest pill for an adult to swallow, but unfortunately, in my experience, I am right on the money. Mom’s and Dad’s you need to go back to school. I have a rule with my boys, I watch it and I play it first. That means I best keep up to date with how to do those first. As hard as it may become, and granted it may be easier because I love tech, I need to keep up to speed with what is out there and what they may come into contact with.
It is not good enough for parents to voluntarily wear the dunce cap and tap out because they don’t understand this technology thing. There are websites, courses, blogs, seminars etc aimed at helping parents get a firmer grasp of the technology their kids seem to instinctively understand. If you don’t have the answer, find it! Expect that your child’s school is providing talks of whats new, how to use it and the dangers. Expect your church to empower parents with the skills to tackle not just “how to discipline your child in 50 different ways and not leave a mark” but also, what is social media, what can they do, what can be done to them etc. I think it’s high time parents make a conscious effort in this area and not simply rely on their ignorance as an excuse for not being able to better protect their kids from this technology stuff! You may even find that your kids begin to appreciate how you are making an effort to understand their world, especially seeing as one of the greatest gripes expressed by most teenagers is “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT ITS LIKE TO BE ME”.
In closing, that wasn’t too bad was it! The speed of tech is growing exponentially so best you get your school on and find out what you don’t know so you can fix it. Some interesting reads and articles are listed below, happy parenting, go get your tech on! Send through questions or comments or simply Google it 🙂