On parenting and technology

After a hiatus of six months, I am back again to this blog…and I am glad to say that the reason of my hiatus has already grown to six months old, is capable of gurgles and burbles, and sleeps longer through the night. Therefore I am back to blogging again. This time, I do have something to say about parenting and technology.

A little background on this. A Singaporean community service organization, Touch Cyber Wellness, has recently launched a programme to teach pre school children who run the risk of cyber addiction how to use gadgets and technology responsibly. I stared at the article for like ten minutes. What? Are these people nuts? Why teach children this young the responsible usage of gadgets when obviously it is the adults in their lives who shove the gadgets into their hands? Hello…

Therefore, I wrote a nice article to Straits Times to air my views, and it got published today:

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However, I am just a teeny weeny upset that the editor has made some changes to my article that made me seem self-contradictory and bigoted, without any recommendations to boot. So here is my orginal article submitted to Straits Times:

I applaud Touch Cyber Wellness for coming up with a programme aiming to teach prudent use of gadgets (“Kids to get early lessons in prudent use of gadgets”, ST 10 June 2013). However, the target audience for this programme should be the parents, not the children.

As Touch Cyber Wellness has pointed out, many parents are using gadgets to babysit children. Hence the right techniques of using these gadgets should be taught to parents instead. New parents should be taught that no amount of technological distractions from gadgets can substitute quality time spent with their children. They can also be taught to schedule and limit such playtime for their children so that the playing does not become an obsessive habit. New parents who are clueless at keeping their children gainfully occupied could also be taught strategies to engage their children,  rather than turning to gadgets to “entertain”.

I believe as mature adults, parents hold the key to reinforcing proper gadget usage in their homes. Teaching very young children about good gadget usage is simply putting the cart before the horse, because if the authority figures of the family allow for unlimited usage of gadgets, who are the children to say no? In our family, none of my four children have personal gadgets and we limit their gadget playtime to one hour a day for the older ones, and fifteen to thirty minutes for the younger ones. Gadget playtime is also only granted as a form of reward for something well done, and not to be regarded as a daily norm. Our children also have to seek our permission to watch TV or use the laptop, and all our gadgets are password protected. Needless to say, none of our children are addicted to gadgets, and they learn the value of sharing gadgets from a young age.

A good time to teach good cyber habits to parents would be when the parents attend parent craft lesson for their newborns. Parents could be shown results of scientific researches that show the detrimental effects of addiction to technology, and also ways to guide and limit gadget usage for their children, together with strategies to engage the children. I do hope that such courses would be available for new parents soon, as children cannot be made responsible for parents who fail to set proper boundaries in technology usage.

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