Have you ever had your laptop slammed shut by a toddler?
My son did that to me a while back. I was writing an email to a friend and he came over and flipped the screen down. He wanted me to come and play with him and it was the easiest way for him to get my attention.
I was thinking about the incident when I listened to this NPR interview with Sherry Turkel, the author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.
Text message, email, Facebook and a constant feed of information from electronics is changing the way we parent, the way we operate as families and how our children develop. Much of it to our and their detriment.
What’s a parent to do with all of this growing data about the perils of technology?
Sherry has some good suggestions in her interview. Have a basket in the living room and dining room to hold electronic devices and designate screen and cell phone free hours. Make sure the dinner hour is one of them so you can have better face to face discussion.
That’s another thing Turkel has identified from her research: people are avoiding face to face communication because they feel they don’t have control over it. Unlike email and text message where there is time to compose an answer, an in-person discussion requires immediate responses. We’re losing the art of conversation and the learning from a hot discussion, because of email and text messaging.
Another change in how we parent now is that children are in constant communication with their parents.
Children are getting these phones earlier and earlier. These are years when children need to develop this capacity for solitude, this capacity to feel complete playing alone. If you don’t have a capacity for solitude, you will always be lonely, and my concern is that the tethered child never really feels that sense that they are sort of OK unto themselves; and I talk to college students who’ve grown up with the habit of being in touch with their parents five, 10, 15 times a day. And it’s no longer Huckleberry Finn as a model of adolescence, you know, sailing down the Mississippi alone — we’ve developed a model of adolescence and childhood where we sail down the Mississippi together with our families in tow. – Sherry Turkel
More for me to think about as Henry grows up.
While Sherry discussed her research on how technology is affecting how we parent, something I think about a lot, she also talked about how technology is affecting youth
… this sense of the Facebook identity as something that follows you all your life is something that many adolescents feel is a burden. – Sherry Turkel
I’ve heard the term digital identity used before and my first reaction was, honestly, an eye roll.
Of course, it was writers and social media types talking about their own digital identity and branding and what not. The concept of a digital identity for my child, one that I was already creating and that they would take on as an adolescent (or younger) hadn’t been at the front of my mind.
But I’m sure thinking about it now.
If Facebook and digital photography had been around during my high school and college years I’d have a different digital identity.
They weren’t crazy years but I’m glad that my growing up wasn’t documented online. I experimented with outfits and Sun-In and music in the relative privacy of my circle of friends. And when I went away to university I was easily able to leave my high school angst behind. Something Turkel says teens can’t do these days. As one teen told Turkel, Facebook doesn’t allow them to ever have a fresh start.
Ameena is a blogger that recently posted about why she hasn’t shared a photo of her daughter’s face online. After she published this post several families that shared stories of their out of country pregnancy and birth experiences on Ameena’s blog have since asked her to change or take down the accompanying photo of their child from their story post.
I’m thinking more about Henry’s digital identity after reading these pieces.
Recently I decided not to share some things about his development and milestones when I thought about having it cached away here on a blog, waiting for him or his friends to discover it years from now. I’m also ruminating on Ameena’s post and thinking about only publicly sharing photos of him that don’t show his face. While I think the photos I have shared of him are things to be proud of – he’s a healthy child that smiles a lot – I think more will be kept private until he is ready to share them himself.
Finding more role models for technology lite family living.
I was searching for compostable and not too crafty decorations for our first live Christmas tree last week and came across Unplug Your Kids. This Montessori teacher and mother of three has been raising her children tech and screen lite from the beginning (they’re now 12, 10 and 6).
It was refreshing to read about how her children don’t mind, or ask why, they don’t have cable television or video games to play. The family has one computer in a high traffic area and the children are supervised whenever they use it. More about their model of unplugged kids here.
Unplug Your Kids is in a quiet season right now, the author has taken a new job and is pursuing more education, but there are a lot of great posts in the archive.
So, it can be done.
I think technology is wonderful.
The ability to see and hear family face to face while we are thousands of miles apart still excites me. When my husband can send me a text message telling me where he and my son have ended up on their morning adventure so that I can meet up with them, I am thankful. And I am grateful, so very grateful, for blogs. We wouldn’t have made so many life changes like paying off a huge amount of debt or getting rid of our car, if I hadn’t been encouraged and guided by the advice of writers I found online.
But as Uncle Ben told Spiderman, with greatness comes great responsibility. I am trying to use the greatness of technology wisely.