Tech & Media
Being Anti-Tech Isn’t The Answer for Parents
By Natalie Romero
PHOTO © Karel Joseph Noppe Brooks/123RF
Aug 14, 2017
I used to think I had won at parenting because my children barely used video games or any form of technology. They only had access to our one dated video game console and their grandparents’ tablets. When my son went to his first video game party a couple of years ago, he had never actually played Minecraft. His friends and their parents were shocked.
In our world, technology is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.
And when I saw a news story about a Toronto school that had banned smart phones in the classroom, my first instinct was to applaud the move. Study after study has shown that phones are a distraction. We know that phone use has become the latest addiction. We’ve heard warnings that young people are not developing social skills because they are on their phones all the time.
If kids are becoming too distracted in class to learn, then banning phones is not only logical but necessary. Isn’t it?
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The more I thought it through, the more I started to wonder if phone bans were the best solution. In our world, technology is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.
Why was I proud of my own kids' technological illiteracy?
At my last doctor’s appointment, I was directed to an iPad in the waiting area and asked to check myself in using the tablet. I wondered how someone who isn’t technologically savvy would fare.
Technology isn’t going anywhere. In fact, technology becomes a more permanent part of our lives every day. We bank online, students hand in their school assignments online and I even order my kids' pizza lunches online.
Part of our job as parents and educators is to prepare our children for the world they are about to enter. They need to learn to be self-sufficient and that means learning proper use of technology, including the basic etiquette of appropriate device usage. Banning phones won't teach our kids responsible usage; it will simply make phones unavailable.
They love watching YouTube shows and don't always play educational games (unless you consider Temple Run a lesson in how to run fast).
So if technology is an integral part of our everyday lives, why does it continuously get a bad rap? And why was I proud of my own kids' technological illiteracy?
After giving it a lot of thought, we decided to get each of our children their own tablet for Christmas. It was time for them to learn how to be responsible with tech. Their homework was also starting to require the use of apps and the internet, and we were tired of handing over our own devices. (And, to be perfectly honest, the tablets are the perfect thing to take away when they're being punished!)
It hasn’t been an easy transition. They love watching YouTube shows and don't always play educational games (unless you consider Temple Run a lesson in how to run fast). We've had arguments over screen time and tricky discussions about why certain YouTube videos are inappropriate. We have also had to set ground rules like not bringing tablets to the dinner table. But I do love that it’s sparked good conversations about internet safety and appropriate viewing.
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The biggest lesson I've learned since I relented and got my kids their own tablets is that technology isn’t innately bad. Technology only becomes an issue for children, just like for adults, when it takes over. When kids stop playing outside, become inactive or stop interacting with others, then maybe it’s an issue.
I remember many Saturday mornings spent sitting in front of the television with a bowl of cereal, lost in the world of The Smurfs, Jem and the Holograms, and She-Ra Princess of Power. I learned that if I stayed in front of the TV for too long, I would get grumpy and wouldn’t feel great.
Technology is evolving, but it isn't brand new. I don't think banning devices, even in school, is the best way for our kids to learn how to manage them properly. Ban them outright and they become a forbidden fruit. Teach them to know when to put their phones away, and they will learn good habits that will last all their lives.
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