Publisher’s Perspective: Parenting in 2018 – Part 1 (opinion)
January 11, 2018
Being a parent is great. Being a parent sometimes sucks. Being a parent is hard. Being a parent is never easy.
As the new year was ushered in one of the thoughts that ran through my head was that parenting in 2018 is going to be harder than it was in 2017. Not just because my kids all are getting older (ages 3, 9, 11, 14) and more challenging, but so is the world around us. I thought about the challenges and wondered if other parents have the same concerns I do and pondered the age-old question that parents ask themselves: "Am I doing it right?"
So I decided to send many of my friends many parenting questions with the hope that they'd answer and I could try and corral their answers into a series that addresses what it's like to be a parent in today's society. I got great responses from parents around the country who have children of ages from 5 weeks to over 20. Looking over all the responses, I thought the best place to start this series was with the elephant in the room: technology.
Technology (including social media) is a pain in the butt for parents. Everyone is still trying to figure it out and nobody seems to feel like they have the magic bullet with how to handle. With computers now part of school curriculums, you can't hide from it. Directly put, it's a love/hate relationship. To put it into Tahoe context, it's like snow. You love it when it's falling and love to play in it, but you hate it when you have to dig out of it.
To best discuss this issue, I broke it into two parts — younger kids and older kids. No matter the age, the one consistent that seemed to resonate was moderate, moderate, moderate. You cannot let it get out of control and you have to stand firm on this issue even if it means taking technology away as punishment. Just like with anything that people enjoy, not having it is not cool. As one parent put it, they have to "learn the power of pause."
For younger children, one parent said, "It's an easy way to mellow them out but needs to be monitored for time." It's so easy as a parent to plop your kid in front of the TV (or device) and let technology "babysit" while you get things done — including sleep.
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This doesn't make you a bad parent — I don't know any parents who haven't used this tactic. But I do agree that this can easily get out of control and definitely needs to be watched closely (content included). The more the child is exposed to this, the more they depend on it, which can be harmful.
On the flip side of this for younger kids is the incorporation of technology as a learning mechanism. There are some great applications that do a really good job of teaching kids math, spelling, association and other things that can be learned at a young age.
When I was growing up it seemed like Sesame Street was the only thing that did this ahead of pre-school. Now, Sesame Street is a dime a dozen. It's pumped up on steroids and there's nearly something for every type of topic to teach your kid.
Not too long ago when we were potty training our youngest, we were having a hard time getting him interested. My wife found a great video that talked about anatomy and why you have to go to the bathroom. The other kids laughed hysterically at it, but the youngest was fascinated and once he watched it, done — potty training complete. It was like magic.
While you can sit with your younger children and engage with technology together, as they start to get older they want their independence — especially when it comes to social media. However, more than one parent said that they review their social accounts together, which also helps to know what their friends are doing and opens up conversation about what's going on in their lives.
Social media is new to me as a parent as our kids aren't heavy users of it, with exception to our oldest who uses Instagram. Regardless, I'm sure at some point it will be part of their lives.
I found it fascinating that one parent who has a daughter with social anxiety and is seeing a therapist for it, mentioned that the therapist said it was common in kids her age, and it has a lot to do with social media and not truly interacting with people. I know that kids can be harsh growing up and I dread navigating the social media minefield when they get to high school.
This begs the question of how exactly do you handle it? One parent, who also is a teacher, went as far to say Snapchat is the devil. That doesn't exactly paint a rosy portrait that I'm excited to check out. Nevertheless, one suggestion of a parent with older kids is to have their logins so that you can access their accounts.
Given the real dangers that exist in today's cyber world (bullying, sexting, too much personal information shared, predators, etc.) that's not a bad idea. At least you can monitor for safety and be able to talk to them about any situations that may need to be discussed.
However, checking their social accounts probably means you'll need to spend less time with your own social habits, which also is something that I asked about. Their answers were somewhat of a mixed bag. Many said they know it's led to them missing out on time with their kids and they need to cut back. Others said they don't use it much.
Regardless, it goes back to the fundamental approach of parenting in that our kids will do what they see their parents do on an ongoing basis. Something we all can lose sight of if not careful — and probably something that we should talk about next time.
Publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-542-8046.
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