How Technology has Influenced the Parent-Child Relationship
Technology has touched nearly every aspect of our lives, and as we enter a new decade, we will continue to see the persistent and rapid growth of these advances. When our lives change and when technology makes things more accessible, efficient, and convenient, our relationships change, too. It is an inevitable transition that we must become accustomed to, particularly when these changes involve parenting and your relationship with your child.
The generation gap between you and your own parents might have seemed pretty significant to you when you were growing up. You might have thought to yourself, as you got a little older, that whenever you had your own children you would surely be much more in-tune with trends and modern society than your parents were. But, advances in technology within the past decade or two have created a new (potential) generation gap. Just when you thought that you would be teaching your kids everything, it turns out, they will be teaching you too. This is certainly not a new dynamic between parents and children. It began with computers and then the Internet and more recently, with social media, smartphones, and similar devices. Kids do a lot of the teaching when it comes to technology, but as a parent, you most likely know that you must apply the rules and boundaries. You might fear what will happen to a generation that is almost entirely directed by technology. How will this affect your child and your relationship with them?
It’s challenging for most parents when they see their child glued to a device or other form of technology on what seems like a rather constant basis. You worry and you think back to your own childhood, where cellphones and video games took up some of your time, but certainly not in the way it consumes your child now. Some parents mistakenly become threatened by their child being consumed by technology. They feel they are losing (or have lost) control and as a result, may react with excessive and harsh measures that could put a strain on the relationship with their child even creating a permanent rift. Below we will discuss a few critical aspects of how to navigate your relationship with your child in an era where you blink and technology seems to take more significant advances than ever before.
What to Expect (By Age Group)
Ask any parent who has a teenager and they will tell you how different the issues get surrounding technology in the household. However, if you really think about it, things get different (and challenging) when your child enters adolescence, technology or no technology.
Children begin to use technology as toddlers or even sooner. So long as they can focus on a screen, your child is connected. In these early years, you have control (or at least most of it). As your child enters early and mid-childhood, technology becomes an even more significant part of their lives in the place where they spend a large part of their lives: In the classroom. You don’t have much control here plus, you agree to this because it is all for the sake of learning. Technology has undeniably contributed to significant learning opportunities for your child.
The young to middle childhood years often mean that your child has or uses a smartphone, tablet, and/or similar device. When this happens, well, the rest is history. Devices serve a central role in your child’s life. By middle school and adolescence, technology becomes part of the social world and peer relationships, which are the primary focus during this stage of development. Your teen’s communication and interaction with peers revolves around technology. Technology is hence a large part of your child growing up.
We have summarized how technology enters and stays in your child’s life in a few brief paragraphs, but of course, the process (fortunately) moves much more gradually. There are numerous (and much room) for you to step in and ensure that technology serves to enhance your relationship with your child. Many parents, in frustration, maybe convinced that technology is the demise of quality relationships, including the relationship with their child. This does not have to be the case so long as you are a step ahead. Yes, you can be a step ahead of technology. Imagine that.
When dealing with issues related to technology and your child, avoid extreme measures such as cutting them off from their favorite devices or trying to eliminate their screen time with “solutions,” such as reading books or getting some “face-to-face human interaction.” Although there is nothing wrong with these methods per se, it is the delivery of solutions to solve the issue of excess screen time that will matter the most. Activities such as reading books, playing outdoors, or in-person interactions should not be a consequence nor should it be forced. This could cause your child to develop a negative association with things like spending time with family or taking on a new hobby or sport.
Instead, when you’re confronting an issue with your child related to their use of technology, use the issue as an opportunity to increase communication while also setting limits. Of course, this strategy varies from child to child and depending on the situation at hand, but discipline should be about your child learning good habits from you as you establish and maintain your authority. You serve as the primary model of behavior for your child. Yes, it’s true: Your child will model after you even more than their peers or others they may look up to. Make sure you are modeling healthy communication and boundary setting for your child.
Setting Limits & Boundaries
There isn’t one reliable and entirely effective method for setting good limits and boundaries with your child when it comes to dealing with technology. Every child’s disciplinary needs will be different, but as a general rule, limits and boundaries should be established and communicated with your child ahead of time.
When your child knows what to expect and what is expected of them, the rules will seem less like you merely trying to inflict your will and control your child in an authoritarian manner. Rules that are created in the spur of the moment, because you said so, are bound to create more conflict and it teaches your child that you have no real control as a parent. It also shows your child to react emotionally, on impulse, rather than with poise and control.
Remember, that authoritative, not authoritarian, parenting is the best recipe for success when it comes to maintaining an excellent relationship with your child. As an authoritative parent, you want to explain the rules to your child in a warm and supportive manner, showing respect and consideration for your child’s independence. Children of all ages function best under pretty structured conditions, but they must know what to expect from the structure you create in the home. In addition, it’s typically a good idea to allow your child, even at a young age, to have input regarding the limits and boundaries. When they are part of the decision-making they will be more likely to adhere to and respect the rules.
Benefits & Drawbacks
Once you have a good handle on technology and managing your relationship with your child, you will be more open than ever to the many benefits that these advances offer. Technology keeps you connected with your child in a way that you were probably not connected with your parents. You and your child can learn from each other, grow together, and experience the vast, exciting world of technology. You can close the generation gap and welcome technology into your home and your life as a way to grow closer and more united as a family. Let’s start 2020 with an eye towards growing closer together over this technology in a safe, responsible, and fun way.
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