The Changing Face of Childhood
As I sit down to write this on my laptop my lovely husband has taken our two little people to the park to give them some fresh air, and me some space to work. It's a cold wet day, they’re rugged up, and I can almost hear their squeals of delight on the swing from here. Thankfully, even though there has been some encouragement from me on the more difficult days, they’re just not really that interested in technology as yet. I suspect this disinterest will be short-lived.
I noticed a two year old on a plane recently with an iPad. His Mum was quick to pipe up that it was the "only thing that kept him entertained" for more than five minutes, and besides, it meant she didn't have to carry umpteen books and games for the trans Tasman flight.
The reality is, our children are growing up with technology, and there's not too much we can do about it except set safe boundaries. Certainly there's no escaping it if your teenager goes to Orewa College, where it's compulsory to have an IPAD or similar for learning. (And no doubt many other schools who haven't been so publicly outed.) I remember the days when we weren't allowed to bring calculators into exams.
I have fond childhood memories of baking piklets, spending hours cleaning my bike with warm soapy water on the lawn, making home made lemonade with a makeshift stall aimed at unsuspecting neighbours. The treat of the week was staying up late with my Dad on a Saturday night to watch Knight Rider. It sounds idyllic, and an upbringing I can now only dream of for Tilly and Jude.
Staying home with children is a luxury in this country, and completely unrealistic for most of us. So how do we maintain a technology balance when we're tired and time poor and not always around to supervise?
Ask yourself first of all; Do you miss face to face family time? Is your child spending too much time on the computer/xbox/cell phone/TV. Is he whining he's the "only kid in school" without any of these things? Are we setting good examples for our children by restricting our own technology time in front of them? I hate being busy working at the computer when the kids are needing my attention, and have to remind myself that despite deadlines, they must come first, even if it means working late into the night. I don't want to be an absent parent when I'm in the same room.
Experts agree the first thing to do if you're worried about the amount of time your child is engaged in this kind of activity, is to set boundaries. Teach your children TV/computer games/ xbox/ cell phones are luxuries, not necessities. They CAN live without them, despite their protests.
Give your child your time. Half an hour playing a family board game, putting together a jigsaw, visiting the park, or playing in the garden. You could find they end up having so much fun, time escapes you. Better still, the fresh air and exercise will tire them out!
And if you don't have any of these things in your home (well done!) there are plenty of places to find it. A visit to the local library or a friends house to use a computer or console game can be seen as a reward, and something to look forward to.
It's also wise to become technology savvy yourself. How can you police what your child is up to if you don't know how things work? Children and teenagers will undoubtedly be faster learners than us, but we need to remain one step ahead of them. One way to do this is to get them to teach you, ask other parents or learn for yourself by taking a technology class at your local school or community centre.
Technology is not all bad! It can be extremely helpful and many of us couldn't do our jobs without it. It's ideal for keeping track of teenagers pushing the boundaries with curfews, researching homework, and keeping in touch with the world. Most schools are incredibly well resourced these days and the learning that goes on with the help of technology is mind blowing. But too much time can affect children's behaviour and social abilities.
There once was a world without these things, but this is their future, and we have to get used to it.