Disclaimer: I don’t have children, but I’m well-versed in observing and interacting with children from newborns to college-aged young adults. Take my observations as such. I truly don’t know how hard parenting is on a personal level at this point and might change my tune when I’m fully responsible for the curation of a child’s future.
My observations of the relationship between children and technology are grim, and it has surfaced in every child-parent relationship I encounter.
Children are heavily attracted and addicted to technology at a young age, and the only explanation for that addiction is their parents. I believe parents may be equally addicted to technology.
As a Millennial, I’ve been raised with growing technology at my fingertips and now live in a generation with high technological literacy. Out of all the generations, 51% of Millennials own a smartphone, compared to 39% Generation Xers and 24% of younger Boomers, according to the Pew Research Center’s July 13, 2011 study.
Our reliance on technology can be beneficial, but there are also several reasons I find that reliance concerning in some parenting.
An infant learns quickly that a smartphone is their parent’s most-used possession. It’s brightly lit and their parents’ eyes are often glued to the screen. Because of it, I’ve seen babies grabbing at their parents’ phones as soon as they can move their arms.
That child ages and begins learning how to utilize technology. For busy Millennial parents who may both work outside the home — 66% of households with a married couple and at least one child younger than 18 in which one or both spouses is Millennial, both parents were employed in 2018 — a “technological babysitter” becomes an extremely easy way to pacify children for hours without having to exert effort for which they may not have energy.
As those children grow and mature, so does their capability to utilize all technology has to offer — for good or bad. Eventually, everyone in the family is glued to a device and traditional family time slips away or is interrupted by those devices.
Two-thirds of parents say parenting is harder today than 20 years ago, with technologies like social media and smartphones being cited as a reason, Pew Research reported July 28.
“In today’s digitally connected world, parents have to manage their own relationship with the internet and mobile devices, along with managing their children’s use of and exposure to the same technology. This brings with it a host of both benefits and challenges,” several Pew researchers reported.
Likewise, Pew reports roughly seven in 10 parents think smartphones could bring more harm than good to children.
Almost every family I know — and especially those parents who battled or are currently battling at-home educating during COVID-19 shutdowns — struggles with screen time. How much is too much? How do I enforce it?
“Some 61% of parents of a child age 11 or younger say they have received advice or information about screen time from a doctor or other medical professional and 55% say the same about other parents, while 45% of parents of a child age 5 to 11 have turned to teachers for help,” Pew researchers reported.
Like in all generations before Millennials, parents have parented differently and sought advice from family, fellow parents, educators and medical professionals about many other topics. While the topic of technology seems to uproot a family system, setting proper priorities that coincide with your family’s values will help shape how much technology dictates your — and especially your children’s — habits.
Some families may not struggle as much as others, too. I've met those who do not introduce their children to technology or limit their use with programmed time limits and discipline. I'd hope to someday be one of the parents that finds the healthy balance between utilizing technology for good while not going overboard.
What are your priorities? What end product do you not want to see in relation to your children’s use of technology, and how do you prevent that with safeguards from the start?
For those needing external help in finding balance for their children and technology use, I suggest reaching out to Compass Center for Families main office (307-675-2272) for help. They offer parenting classes with a mission to strengthen child-centered, family-focused positive relationships.