If parenting, at all ages, had been a roller coaster ride, now it has become a tight rope walk due to the fast paced world of technological advancement.
Apart from the age old parenting challenges of protecting the child from dangerous people and situations, now the parents have a new challenge in dealing with cyber bullying, excessive screen time (TV Computer and mobile phones), exposure of the children to multiple types of screens and apps etc.
They are also worried about protecting the children from harmful radiations from the gadgets they use.
Like the Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution marked a complete sift in our society. This alters many aspects of our lives.
Our society is now so defined by computers, smart phones , internet that hardly anyone can think of a world without these . This signals a new era with new needs and possibilities.
The digital revolution links individuals and groups together, no matter which part of the globe they are in. It is a catalyst for sharing ideas and thus revolutionized the whole system of education as well.
Similarly we now have a world of online opportunity. Startup companies can begin in a bedroom with a single laptop! Digital revolution forces competitiveness on a global scale.
The Flip side Of Digital Revolution
Like the discovery and the use of fire, we need to handle the technology we use, carefully.
The unprecedented “Digital Revolution” is mostly driven by an addiction to convenience, speed, and instant gratification that could be compromising child development.
Children are exposed to a number of distractions like excessive texting, digital games, social media, and internet use continuously, compromising with the time of free play, sleep, and essential social interactions.
Digital technology promotes multi-tasking and very rapid information processing.
This weakens the brain’s ability to screen out distractions, to read with comprehension, and to contemplate. There is an “information overload” affecting the users. Most algorithms (apps and games) are designed to promote consumerism by appealing to the pleasure centers of the brain.
Media Guru Marshall Mc Luhan had predicted long time back:
“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”
The digital age child is thus susceptible to internet and game addiction, and are found in a constant state of anxiety labeled “reward anticipation”.
Recognizing that the screen can be addictive, American Psychiatric Association (APA) added Internet Use Disorder (IUG) and Internet Gaming disorder (IGU) in the further study section of DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders).
In some jurisdictions health regulations recommended a child under 2 years of age to receive no screen time (including TV) and under 5 years to be exposed to less than 1 hour.
According to WHO, children less than 1 year should not be exposed to any screen time at all.
However, one of the first things that needs to be acknowledged is that technology is here to stay and of course will continue to develop over the coming years.
Therefore, it is a good idea to have a strategy in relation to managing the use of technology and time spent online. It may be a relatively new concept, but more and more parents are going to need to add a digital element to their parenting style.
Although bullying is not a new phenomenon, the internet has drastically changed the landscape of how schools, parents, and children must respond.
Previously, even a child who was dealing with severe bullying could at least escape into the safety of their home. Now, however, bullies can follow children into their safest spaces thanks to the internet connected devices that go everywhere with them.
Telling children to ignore a bully doesn’t necessarily work either – even if the devices are turned off, bullies can use the internet to spread hurtful messages or images that have a much wider reach than any note passed in class.
Be aware of your child’s school’s policy on cyber bullying, and stay alert for the signs that your child is being bullied.
The sooner the issue can be identified and addressed, the better chance you have of stopping it before it gets out of hand. It’s important to also be aware of your own child’s actions online.
Many children are both victims of and participating in cyber bullying themselves. Helping your child practice appropriate behavior online can prevent them from becoming a target.
Teach your child “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is a golden rule online.
How much screen time is too much?
It’s a complex question. Too much screen time may damage the brain, inhibit the ability to recognize emotions, and affect child development.
Simply banning internet-connected devices until a child reaches their teen or adult years is becoming less and less realistic. Computers, tablets, and smartphones have real value as educational tools as well as entertainment devices.
Also, digital communication is the new normal, and eschewing that entirely sets your child up for social isolation and fails to prepare them for adult life.
Balance is the key to managing screen time.
Children need firm limits on when and how much they can use their devices. Establishing these limits now will help them learn to set limits for themselves later in life.
They also need encouragement to participate in offline, non-screen based activities
Use the downtime to look at some things together online – if you’re on a ski vacation, how about checking out the history of skiing?
Introducing the use of internet through an “internet class’’ in schools would be a good idea to follow.
Teach Your Child The Internet Safety Rules
Teach your child how to stay safe on social media and in apps.
They should know how to hide their personal information and how to report and block any inappropriate communications they receive in a given online environment.