Parenting in the Digital Age

In an earlier post, we discussed Cyber-psychology and the shallow, virtual relationships that develop in our modern, digital age. What effect does digital technology have on parenting and the family?

According to a national survey by the Center on Media and Human Development, School of Communication at Northwestern University, parents do use technology as a tool for managing the household’s daily activities, but more often turn to family and friends for parenting guidance than media resources.

A minority of parents use a digital device as a tool for keeping a young child occupied. The majority still reach for a toy or activity rather than a digital game or media device. For older children, media is often used as a behavior modifier – offering technology as a reward, or withholding as a punishment. According to the survey, these parents are concerned about the effect of technology on a child’s level of activity and fitness. These parents often feel that it is harder to get their child’s attention and distract him or her with other activities when the child’s attention is completely focused on the device. It is important to the parents that they strive to limit the time spent on these devices.

Very young children, even toddlers, are using IPads and smart phones. A majority of parents enforce family rules about what types of media content their children can use, under what circumstances, and for how long. The good news is that parent-child interaction while using a digital device is another way for young children and parents to bond.

The behavior of older children and teens with media devices is different from that of younger children. On average, American teens spend nearly eight hours a day on devices, between game devices, IPads and smart phones. As discussed in our earlier blog post, there is a very real danger of social isolation when use of these devices becomes addictive. Life skills are not being learned or used, and students can fall behind in critical education.

We suggest limiting or prohibiting activities that remove your children from engaging with the family. Teach children that technology is a tool and not a lifestyle. Be cognizant of your own use of technology as well, and be sure that you are interacting with family and friends in a healthy way.

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