In this long but engaging piece from the Atlantic (which, full disclosure, I read on a screen), Hanna Rosin explores the complexities of parenting at a moment of huge change when it comes to kids and tech. How young is too young? How much time in front of screens is too much for any age? And where’s the manual? (Hint: There isn’t one.)
Rosin takes us on a journey of surprise, angst, fear and a whole bunch of other emotions that are tied to this bumpy transition parents and others are trying to navigate as app and social media publishers target an increasingly youthful audience for their wares.
If you’re struggling (like I am) with navigating a balance between real life and screen life for your children, read on.
Not to date myself, but the only screens I had growing up were a black and white Sylvania television set and, when I was a teenager, Pong, which we actually played on the black and white Sylvania, so I guess that doesn’t count. Today, most of my waking hours are spent in front of one of any number of screens: computer, tablet, phone, television, and, maybe soon, wristwatch. (Dick Tracy anyone?)
Regardless of what age we are, the screens have changed since we were kids. And they’ll continue to change. This is certain. And in many ways, the rapid and radical shifts that new technologies bring to our lives make parenting around this stuff feel like a crapshoot.
My two teenagers tell me they’re the only ones in the county that don’t have iPhones. They’re shocked when, in their presence, I tell other parents that our Internet connection goes down by design at 9 pm every night, or that I have the passwords to their Facebook accounts. This isn’t easy space to make sense of, but all my wife and I know is that while we both love technology and connections, we also want to balance that with the real world of bumps and bruises that come with play outside, and the personal interactions and negotiations that require a real person standing in front of you to figure out.
But that balance stuff is messy, and shifting daily. I find myself constantly trying to reach into the future and understand what rules or expectations I set around the technology today will best serve my kids down the road. I’m 100% certain that my own kids will need to be literate and fluent at connecting with all sorts of people online, strangers included, and that screens will be an integral part of their learning lives. I’m 0% certain, however, that the parenting decisions I’m making today to try to influence that outcome will be successful.
But here’s the thing; if we’re not feeling at least a healthy dose of angst around our kids’ use of technology, I wonder how successful our parenting can be. Regardless our comfort level, screens represent big “C” CHANGE, in how we create, how we communicate, how we connect, and a whole bunch of other ways that we’re just starting to figure out. The more we share, both onscreen and off, our own attempts as parents to make sense of that change for our kids, the better off we’ll all be.
So, I’m wondering, how are you parenting around the influx of screens in your kids’ lives?