With access to the Internet comes access to unprecedented amounts of information and connectivity. Parenting websites and communities are booming as more and more newbie parents flock to them looking for advice on how to raise their kids just right. And with devices come endless hours of entertainment, shows and tutorials in front of which parents can happily plant their kids.
So is technology taking away from basic interactions between parent and child?
Is social media creating a culture of ‘snapshot’ parenting, where parents show off only romanticized versions of reality?
We asked a few moms, teachers and professionals to share their views:
Author and mom Kiran Manral says that technology can be a boon or a bane depending on how one ‘chooses’ to use it.
“You can use technology to help your kids with their school projects, to show them educational videos, to stay in touch via whatsapp and skype or face time when you or they are travelling. But nothing can replace the value and preciousness of human interaction, and as parents we need to ensure that we hold on to these grimly. Because no emoticon can ever replace the warmth of a hug,” she says.
Writer Genesia Alves says that social media has made motherhood less lonely for her. She tells SheThePeople.TV that she had two babies before social media was around, and one in a world in which there was Instagram and Twitter. She says social media is a place where she found friendship and resonance (and also wisdom, perspective and empathy) from around the world.
“If, like me, your close circles don’t contain many people who have chosen to have kids, online resources are invaluable.”
She is also a big fan of online entertainment for kids, and says her kids even learnt to read on the internet.
“The range is incredible and yes on some days, they’ll watch someone unbox toys or something stupid but the pros outweigh the cons in general if you choose cleverly.”
Mansi Zaveri, founder of parenting community Kidsstoppress, believes that digital can significantly change parenting for the better. Zaveri, who is also a mom, argues that digital parenting is an aid to parenting.
"A lot of parenting information was very alien and what a digital platform like Kidsstoppress is enabling is information, access to everything that's local and relevant to an Indian parent," she tells SheThePeople.TV.
Tuisha Mukherjee, mother of an eleven-year old daughter, and an eight-year old boy feels that technology can take some of the burden off parents, and can even help them become more effective. She lives in a nuclear family in the US and thinks that technology is a great help to her. Both her children learn online via the tutorial service ‘Kumon'. She says it is so effective that they are now learning math concepts even before the teacher gets to them in class.
While mothers seem to embrace the internet, and believe that it can help them become more effective parents, provided they choose to use it well, professionals are a little more skeptical about whether parents are very diligent when it comes to their children’s and their own use of technology.
Genesia Alves tells us about how her husband attended a PTA meeting recently where teachers advised parents to ‘get a grip on their addictions to social media’. She says it was ironic that most of the parents were on their phones checking Facebook even while the teachers were telling them that they should interact with their children more!
Psychologist Sonali Gupta also speaks about how important it is for parents to set a good example for their children. Many parents are so young and fit that they themselves stress on physical and outward appearances, she tells SheThePeople.TV.
“Parents must teach their children that the Internet is not our entire world, but a curated version of reality.” Cyber-bullying is a big problem amongst teenage girls, she says.
A 26-year-old teacher who teaches kids in the second standard, says that it is surprising how much time parents will spend on social media, and how much they like to show their kids off. While it is nice that they want to share, it is perpetuating the culture of creating a persona for show, she says.
And to top things off, a recent study conducted by the University of Washington found that children aged 10 to 17 were “really concerned” about the ways in which their parents shared their pictures online. Three times more children than parents thought there should be rules about what parents share on social media!
“Technology makes parenting easier, not better,” Liesl Goecker, managing editor of The Swaddle, tells SheThePeople.TV
She says that parents often rely on technology to get through the most trying times of parenting -- like meal time and social time -- times that used to be rejuvenating, and where parents are looking to snatch a few moments of that relaxation again with the help of technology.
But unfortunately, those times tend to offer the best opportunities for family bonding and interaction that builds children's cognitive and emotional development. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to have a conversation with a toddler -- to ask how, and why, and to find the 'teachable moments'. Most parents aren't using tech in a way that supports that, she says.
No concrete rules:
Rules regarding technology use in families are murky. Parameters like what is acceptable to share on social media, and when parents should allow their children to use technology and when they shouldn’t, need to be constantly negotiated.
“Making parenting even harder is that there aren’t universally agreed-upon social rules governing technology use, media studies researcher and author of the book ‘Understanding Families in the Digital Age,” Schofield Clark, told the Huffington Post.
Also Read: 8 Parenting Sites To Watch Out For