21st Century Digital Parent: How technology is making parenting harder

It's not easy being a parent in the 21st century; as fantastic as technology is, it can also make parenting harder. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't think an eight year old should have a smartphone, at least, unbridled access to a smartphone. Well, an eight year old really shouldn’t have unrestricted access to anything; we enforce their curfews, we limit the number of sweets they had a day, and how much TV they watch, so why not their phones? The same principles should apply to any connected devices that they may have, I should add, as a privilege.

By Charlie Brown | Opinion

It's not easy being a parent in the 21st century; as fantastic as technology is, it can also make parenting harder. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't think an eight year old should have a smartphone, at least, unbridled access to a smartphone. Well, an eight year old really shouldn’t have unrestricted access to anything; we enforce their curfews, we limit the number of sweets they had a day, and how much TV they watch, so why not their phones? The same principles should apply to any connected devices that they may have, I should add, as a privilege.

I completely understand why parents give their kids mobile phones; it's important to be able to stay in touch with your child. I don't mean to sound paranoid, but handing a young kid a smartphone is liking handing them a grenade. And the problem is, soon most kids' first phone will be a smartphone. There aren't many "dumb phones" being made anymore, and I'm certain that there'll come a day where non-connected phones won't exist anymore.

  I've got three daughters, and I've given my eldest a LeapPad, which has some great content on there for younger kids. She's just about to graduate from it and move onto a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids, so the LeapPad will get handed down. While there are some great kid specific devices, as they get older, kids don't want something made for kids, they want the same thing as mum and dad. But these products are designed for adults.

These devices have parental controls for a reason. It's important to understand these devices as well as your kids, if not better. I know that's hard, I for one quickly eclipsed my father. But if you don't understand what's possible, you don't know what your child is up to, hidden away in their bedroom, when you think they're asleep. While with a desktop PC it was possible to put in an open area in the house and see what's happening, that's not the same with a phone. I don't mean to sound alarmist, but as I've mentioned, the internet isn't always a safe place. Even sites like Facebook can be dangerous due to cyber bullying.

There's a reason parental controls exist, and I think it's important to make use of these. But at the same time, you can't lock down everything, and kids often have a way at getting around these kind of things. I know I did.

More importantly, kids need to respect technology. That's why I am the one introducing my daughters to connected devices, as well as setting boundaries in regards to usage times. Hopefully, this way they will understand technology better and not see it as some sort of forbidden fruit. We also try and lead by example and not use our phones around our kids; we don't want to suggest that it's appropriate to ignore other people to look down at a device.

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