An insightful guest blog on Wellness parenting by Eloise Grobbelaar, looking at how to be tech-savvy parents in a world filled with technology. Eloise Grobbelaar is the founder of Growth and Grit – which is all about raising happy and strong children in this fast-changing world.
How much screentime?
For the first time in human history, we are learning to use new technological tools at the same time as our children. You could say that both generations are going through technology adolescence together. This is why we are so unequipped and unprepared as parents. Yes, digital technology has been around for a while, but no one was able to predict how much it would become part of every day as well as the number of digital devices around us.
We can’t rely on the wisdom passed down from our parents and grandparents on how to deal with Snapchat, Tumblr or Pheed, and if you’re not even sure what Omegle, Chatroulette or Vine is, how can you teach your children to keep safe? We might as well be leaving the front door of our homes right open! Here’s the deal: If we don’t become tech-savvy and figure it out now, we’ll be looking at serious repercussions for this next generation and I don’t want my children to be part of those statistics.
‘Easy-Everywhere’ screen time
We are living in a world of ‘Easy-Everywhere’. The first iPhone was released in 2007, that means that a lot of 12-year olds have grown up with parents continuously glued to their phone screens. Tech used to be neutral, like a kettle in the kitchen, a lawnmower in the shed, or a big, heavy desktop to check our emails if we could get the dial-up to connect. It has since sneaked in under the radar taking over our lives and physically impacting on how the brain is wired and emitting radio waves that penetrate our bodies constantly.
All the tech in our pockets, handbags and homes were designed to make life and work easier by being multifunctional – one easy-to-carry device to do many tasks. We all thought it would give us more time for our families, but the reality is that work and leisure are now spilling into our home lives, decreasing the quality of our time with family – and this is impacting on our basic human needs, especially those of our children.
Human needs in a tech-driven world
Humans have two basic needs. How those two needs are met as children form the basis or our identity and perceptions, and this impacts on everything else in our lives, from childhood into adulthood.
We all want to feel like we belong, and we all want to feel significant. It is crucial for our children to feel a secure sense of significance and belonging within our family home. And there is only one way to meet those needs. Not things. Not tech. Just our T-I-M-E. Nothing can replace it. And if our children don’t get it at home, they will go look for it elsewhere. As families, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time to spend together without any distractions. I regularly hear parents tell me that even finding 10 minutes a day of uninterrupted, high-quality time, is hard. We are so busy that in 24hrs, we find it difficult to spend 10 (completely focused, uninterrupted) minutes with our children!
Current Screen-Time Statistics
Is it really that important to spend high-quality time with my children? A Harvard Medical School study, running for the last 75 years, have concluded that the single most important factor impacting on our children’s success, is the ‘warmth’ of our parenting. Here are some of the most recent facts and stats concerning digital technology and our families.
- 1 in 3 internet users is children.
- 1 in 5 teens has NOT COME ACROSS pornography shared on social media, yep, that’s right, only 21%!
- Last year Childline reported over 2,200 counselling sessions about online sexual abuse and over 4600 about loneliness.
- In a typical day, the average child consumes between 3 and 5 hours of online content, whilst reading for less than 20 minutes.
- The first thing 70% of adults do when they wake up (and before going to sleep), check their phone.
- 12% of all Internet sites are pornographic.
- Smartphone users check their phones on average 120 times a day.
- Employers are regularly checking social media accounts when considering applications, making judgments on the content we have engaged with, this is even more pertinent for our children’s futures.
- Neuroimaging shows that when a teen sends and receives texts, the same part of their brain lights up as a heroin addict’s.
- The average teen sends nearly 3500 texts per month.
By being proactive and tech-savvy in our parenting, we can guide and shield our children significantly in how they engage and consume digital content. And this requires our TIME! If my child feels significance and belonging in our home, it’s more likely that they’ll develop a healthy attitude to technology use. Just as they would with food, clothes, money, alcohol, etc. We have seen many campaigns focusing on increasing exercise, balanced diets, decreasing sugar and salt intake. I don’t know any parents who encourage their children to smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs! Now it’s time to focus on how to use technology in a balanced and responsible way. If we get this right while our children are young, they’ll be so much more equipped when they’re teens. Becoming a tech-savvy parent is not an option, it’s a must.
This is about future proofing our children!
Eloise Grobbelaar is the founder of Growth and Grit – which is all about raising happy and strong children in this fast-changing world. Eloise grew up in South Africa and now lives in the UK. She has taught children of all ages and over the last two decades taught children with behavioural and emotional needs.
Through her studies and management roles in these areas, Eloise has also learnt that by being proactive and equipping children, there is less need for reacting to unwanted behaviours. More importantly, Eloise has learnt that children want to do well. Just like any other skill, children can develop their emotional intelligence if given the support to do so.
Eloise has two children of her own. As they grow, a deep necessity is also growing in her. Not just be a good parent, but to make sure that she’s equipping them to the best of her ability. To become happy, confident and resilient adults who will make a positive impact on the world around them.
BSC (Hon), PGCE, UCert ASD, Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, Relax Kids Coach and Certified Mental Health First Aider
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