Being a mom is hard work, even under the best of circumstances … and most of us are not under the best of circumstances. There are an estimated 11.4 million single mothers in America, and most of them are not only being a mother and a father to their kids, but are also holding down one or more full-time jobs. This was unheard of a generation ago, but things change.
This is not, however, one of those articles that espouses all the benefits of “the good ol’ days”; we can wish and pine and pretend to remember until we’re all just gooey with nostalgia, but no amount of reminiscing will bring back some Norman Rockwell reality that even Norman Rockwell admits never existed.
Our grandparents faced challenges our parents didn’t have to deal with, and we live in a world most of our parents never could have imagined, one where technology threatens to creep into every nook and crevice of our lives. That is neither right or wrong: it just IS … and as parents, we have to deal with it.
Problem is, we have no one to turn to for advice: no previous generation has lived through this. So the best we can hope for is to maybe explore and formalize a few realizations from our experiences, and those of our peers. For example:
- Accept the Reality. Technology isn’t going away. Our kids will need to know how to use it responsibly. Our job is not to protect our children from technology, tempting as that may seem at times. We should be intentionally schooling them on how to leverage technology most effectively while still understanding and respecting the inherent dangers.
- Prevent Addiction. Any number of studies have demonstrated that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, physical disorders, and more. Screen time needs to be limited and monitored.
- Teach More than One Technique. While computers may make things faster, easier, and more accurate, there’s nothing wrong with teaching the “old ways,” either. A computer can be like a power saw, which can save a lot of time and energy, but it teaches you nothing about wood. Learning to make precision cuts with a hand saw offers knowledge that can impact the way you use power tools.
- Look Them in the Eyes. In much the same vein, technology is altering the way we communicate, but there is no denying the importance of visual and verbal communication. In fact, research has suggested that overuse of social media actually tends to make people feel more isolated and depressed. Our children may be whizzes at Instagram, but we need to be sure they can talk to people face-to-face, as well.
- Get Them in the Game. Most interests can be divided between creation and consumption: our kids can either watch baseball all day on television, or try out for Little League. Technology can work the same way: children can watch content created by others, but nowadays there are more opportunities than ever before for even kids to create and publish their own content.
- Teach Wisdom. The internet is full of information. Unfortunately, not all of it is accurate. Understanding the difference–and knowing ways to interpret the information and draw your own conclusions–is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Things aren’t true just because they’re online, and things (or PEOPLE) aren’t important just because they receive a lot of “likes.” Kids need to develop self-worth outside of technology.
- Define the Risks. For kids, danger is an abstract concept. For them, “dangerous technology” could simply mean a bigger laser-weapon on the next level of their video games. Personal assistants like Siri or Alexa are simply a means to an end, used without any thought about possible risk. But the internet, as they say, is forever: any information supplied to technology is there for good. Even seemingly harmless toys can be gathering personal information (for more info, check out this Today Show segment featuring security expert Monica Eaton-Cardone.)
At the end of the day, technology should be considered a tool to solve problems. Technology in and of itself is pointless; its value comes only in the way that it is used. As parents, our job is make sure our children know that, and instill in them both an appreciation and respect for the role technology plays in our lives.