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I must admit that I am a television watcher and a computer user. I have my certain shows on TV that I truly enjoy watching. These shows make me laugh, are a source of relaxation and oh, how I enjoy the drama of it all! I use my computer almost non-stop at work and truly would be lost without it. Like so many others, I use technology to relax, to connect, to find resources, to organize my thoughts and to distract me from the real world–but when does it go too far? And as parents, are we being replaced by technology?
Parents have a lot of questions about what technology is good for their kids, and what they should avoid. Recently a parent was asking my opinion on the “My Baby Can Read” videos and whether she should use those with her child. Debbie has blogged about these DVDs before, but if you aren’t familiar, they are similar to the “Baby Einstein” videos in that you place your young child in front of the television to absorb information, which is far from the most effective way to help your child develop early language and literacy skills. Giving your child the latest in computer based storybooks, which allow a parent to press a button and let the computer do the reading, instead of sitting down and sharing the experience with their child, is no better.
We know, just by living in our society, that technology has replaced many traditional forms of communicating and relating. More and more adults meet on the internet, we text now instead of talking on the phone and social media seems to be replacing get-togethers with friends and family. Does that mean we would use social media or technology sources to parent our children? What is technology’s potential impact on the parent/child relationship? Is there a difference in using technology to improve our parenting versus using it to replace our interactions with our children? I would say the answer is YES!
Using technology allows us to connect us to parenting resources, and parenting Web sites can be extremely valuable. I don’t know about yours, but the children in my life did not come with an “owners manual,” so being able to access information and connect with parents who are dealing with similar circumstances is helpful. However, I find that I have to use what I learn in the context of my relationship with the children in my life. I cannot simply take what another person says or does and apply it. I have to remember who I am, who my child is, how we communicate and what is important to us. My dad always said that he raised my siblings and I differently, that he tried to figure out what was important to each of us, what we needed as individuals. He built relationships with my siblings and based his parenting style on what he observed.
Though resources and advice can serve as a guide, it cannot replace what you learn as you relate and communicate with your own child. My fear about instructional videos, television shows and technologies that replace parent interactions is that we lose the opportunities to connect to our own children. I get that the world is a hectic place, that time is limited and parents are often pulled in several directions. Using the television or videos to occupy a child while you prepare dinner or drive may seem like it is necessary… but is it? Could those moments be filled with conversations with your child, or finding a way for them to be involved in what is going on?
The relationship a child develops with his or her parent is, by far, the most important relationship in his or her life. This is the relationship by which all other future relationships will be judged and formed. The attachment, safety and confidence built between us and our children will carry them forward into other relationships. Reading to your child, teaching your child and engaging them in conversations about their lives and the world are opportunities that clearly enhance the parent/child relationship. There is so much technology out there to make our lives simpler – maybe when it comes to parenting we should resist the urge to take the easier way.