Friday , July 19 2019
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Left to their own devices: is technology harming family life?

I recently came across a post on social media about a mother who provided her 12-year-old son with a contract outlining the conditions under which he could get his first phone. My first thought was that this mother was a genius, but it also made me wonder why this would be necessary, has society’s use of technology gotten out of hand? Or perhaps it is simply a mother’s attempt to protect her child from the dangers that exist online.

Technology plays a huge role in our daily lives, from the phones in our pockets to the gadgets in our cars, and it provides us with instant access to anything, anywhere in the world. That can only be a good thing, right? Well, yes and no.

We walk such a fine line with technology because on one hand it makes our lives so much easier but on the other hand it can get in the way of our enjoyment of the little things.

Every time we pass a bus stop, eat in a restaurant or sit in a waiting room, all eyes seem to be on devices – our ability to communicate effectively has taken a huge knock in recent years and unless we tackle this, the next generation will struggle in many areas, not least in the area of communication.

It is important that parents take countermeasures to ensure that conversation, communication and interpersonal relationships stay firmly in focus within the home environment.

Technology and family life

Technology permeates every aspect of family life now, from new parents seeking advice online or looking to connect with like-minded people to young people engaging in online challenges or online gaming.

My children have devices like many others (consoles, tablets etc) – they don’t have a phone just yet but as my oldest child is almost 12, I’m sure that is likely to change in the near future. There are so many negative sides to allowing our children to have an online presence but there is certainly a positive side to it.

We can clearly see the benefits of access to technology when we look at the education sector. The use of tablets and iPads within schools has become the norm and as a result, students have greater access to information and a different way of learning than they would previously have had.

There has been a shift in the way children learn and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I admit that I certainly overuse technology – my phone is always within reach and I spend an excessive amount of time on social media.

I am acutely aware of the time I am losing with my children as a result and I am becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that children often mimic the behaviours they see. I am guilty of an over-reliance on Googling the answer to a question or seeking advice from online companions (particularly other mothers when it comes to parenting woes).

While I have seen huge benefits from allowing myself to have a digital element to my parenting, it has equally made me worry more about my children engaging in online activity. If I’m honest, the thought of my child being on social media and accessible to undesirable people really scares me.

I am sure I’m not alone in that.

Changing times

When I was growing up, which wasn’t that long ago, life was much simpler.

Children were children and their sole purpose in life was to have fun. We spent our summers climbing trees, skinning our knees and learning life lessons like conflict resolution from arguments over rules of a game.

There was no risk of being bullied online, no danger with being exposed to worrying challenges and threats while watching videos and there was less of a risk to our mental health as a result.

It can be hard for parents now to know what the right balance is.

We have an obligation to embrace the new normal for the sake of our children and accept that technology plays a big role in our lives but equally we have a responsibility to protect our children by teaching them correct usage, ensuring there are limits to time spent on devices and monitoring what they are exposed to. On top of this, we have a duty to lead by example and ensure we are promoting healthy habits when it comes to online usage.

While phones, tablets, internet, social media, online gaming and all that come with them are a relatively new dimension to family life, the use of technology is certainly something that will continue to be a topic of conversation. The future extent of technology usage remains to be seen but we need, as a society, to be mindful of how this will impact on future generations.

Our children are the future world leaders, pioneers and advocates and it is important that we take their future roles seriously and ensure they are afforded the same opportunities and the same protections that we were.

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