21 March 2014

Decreasing Parents Fear Around Technology

I have been noticing that there is a lot of fear around raising children and teenagers in the technology age.

Whether it is because of the shame that the mommy wars creates, i.e. who let’s their child watch TV less; or all of the shame that comes from research connecting excessive TV watching to: ADHD, Autism, poor school performance, defiant behaviour, drug use, etc. And if we dare expose our children to the TV or any other screen we are causing them harm, and therefore are harmful parents.

There has been so much research on this topic that there is instant fear and shame created whenever a new study is released, and ironically it is over-dramatized by the media. Plus, we tend to over generalize the results that we forget that: how each child uses, responds to, and copes with technology, is unique.

But because of this fear response to screen use, technology sometimes gets treated like a forbidden fruit, and then it becomes even more desirable, which creates further strain on the parent-child relationship.

With all of this fear and shame hovering around the screen, we have forgotten to look at the many benefits, and positive uses for technology, which research has shown, that can help ease the forbidden fruit syndrome and the parent-child relationship.

For example, research from Brigham Young University revealed that relationship enhancement can occur when dad’s play video games with their daughters. The University of Victoria has found that teens who play team based video games use and adapt those social skills to real life situations. The lead author in that study, Kathy Sanford, said in an interview: “People criticize gaming because it is sedentary. But we wouldn’t be upset if those kids were reading a book.” Video game playing, especially for teenage boys, has become the 2014 version of storytelling, especially when you consider the storylines for some of the games.

Not to mention that technology has allowed for connection and communication. We can easily connect with family and friends across the country or across the world.

Parents, try to engage with your child in using technology. Let go of some of that fear of not understanding technology and the shame that comes with it, and parallel play with your toddler, child, tween or teen. Yes, there will be moments where they watch a show on Netflix, but as you will parallel play with them and share moments with them, you will begin to understand their world a little more and build a connection.

In the end, the question shouldn’t be “how much is technology being used in the home”; rather, it should be “how is the technology being used in the home?”