Parenting in the digital age; adapting with authority

 

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Children interacting on the laptop. Courtesy: barefootsocialwork.weebly.com

By Mercy Mumo

Parenting in the 21st century has not been an easy task for many especially with the advent of advanced technology with the internet, digital and social media. Growing up in the digital age with strict parents had its challenges. While in primary school, cassettes were very popular until the late 1990s when music CDs and the disk man checked in to phase out cassettes. We would sneak out to a neighbours house to watch movies on VHS tapes.

In my final year of primary school, computer lessons were introduced but at an extra fee. However, there was limited interaction until joining high school. The excitement that came with learning how to type and search on Google was immeasurable. The challenge became getting internet access at home. With Wananchi Online on board as the first internet service provider in Kenya, the costs were a bit prohibitive.

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Children learning using computers. Courtesy: hechingered.org

The digital children of today, especially in the urban areas are extremely intelligent due to the social environment they are exposed to. Parents have little or no control over what form of media their children interact with, especially once they are 18 years and above.

Parents have little or no control over what form of media their children interact with, especially once they are 18 years and above.

When the internet was first introduced in the 1980s, its purpose was  to inform. It has now evolved to a communication media.

My first experience with the internet was 11 years ago while in campus. Having an email account was by far the best thing that technology had to offer at the time. This came hand in hand with having a mobile phone with internet connectivity. Facebook and other social networking sites have greatly increased the exposure of children and young adults.

My mother refused to be a slave of technology and as far as digital media evolved, she remained firm. In her defence, she would say: “I will not expose you to things I have no control over.” Thanks to her, I am a military mother, literally. I think she would be happy to hear what renowned media personality Caroline Mutoko has to say on policing technology.

Communal parenting

The social networks theory advanced by John Arundel Barnes alludes that individuals, groups and organisations interact with others within their networks to build relationships. Thanks to the networks we create or are part of, they to some extent dictate how we respond to issues.

As much as parents were strict in the past, parenting used to be a communal task. Parenting has become individual in this digital age especially in deciding how much exposure to technology is enough.

In the past, according to Swadener (2000), community members, elders and relatives had a collective responsibility of parenting and instilling discipline in children. With the advent of technology, parenting is no longer communal but individual. Parents have little or no control over the type of media or information their children are exposed to. Many choose to identify with characters they are exposed to from different media.

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Teenagers taking selfies. Courtesy: telegraph.co.uk

Fast forward to today, many parents struggle with the challenges of raising children in the digital age. Majority of children have a digital footprint courtesy of their parent’s social media posts. Others have even gone to the extent of having social accounts for their children from as early as birth.

Caroline Mutoko emphasizes on the importance of being a tech savvy parent.  As a parent, I constantly find myself being cautious with what I expose my children to.  From setting parental controls on the decoder to previewing animations before I allow them to watch.

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Cartoons are the most appreciated by children. Courtesy: dietandi.com

The digital age has brought with it a lot of paranoia when it comes to parenting.  Putting security passwords, patterns and codes on communication devices has been the norm with others giving up in the process.

Those who have disposable income invest in ipads and tablets for children which contain apps and games suitable for them. To some extent, parents can have control over the level of

To some extent, parents can have control over the level of exposure in their home environment. In the near future when they are much older, this might not be case.

In terms of dressing and toys, parents will mostly choose to make their purchases online. It is much faster thus saves one a lot of time. On the other hand, one may be forced to buy an item on impulse for their young ones as a result of media exposure.

Last year after the movie frozen was released, as we briskly strolled in one of the popular malls in town with my daughter, she demanded that I buy her a top with Elsa on the front. This clearly indicates how the media has a strong influence on children.

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children enjoying a game on a play station. Courtesy: instructionaltechtalk.com

Technology has also been appreciated as a babysitter at times. Parents living in the urban areas no longer have to worry with whom to leave their baby with. It has become less stressful to parent and multi-task.

Mothers are able to catch up with cooking or take a quick nap while distracting their children with gadgets such as play stations, Xbox, tablets among others.

Parents should be involved as much as they can in their children’s lives. Early monitoring can avert exposure to dangers such as online bullying, cybercrimes, pedophiles and pornography.  In as much as the digital age has brought its risks, there is also a lot that the digital child can gain from.

The current modern schools encourage children from as early as eight years to learn and do their homework with a computer. A child’s ability to critically think and interact with technology and apply the skills learnt is a better gain than one who is taught only to read and replicate the knowledge for an exam through cramming. A recent article on preparing the digital child explains it better.

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Parents are now involved in social groups that provide lessons on how to parent. The church has also not been left out. Forums have been hosted to help guide parents on how to cope in this digital era.

Psychologist Richard Freed expounds on being authoritative and responsive parents in Huffpost Parents. It is every parent’s hope that soon there will evolve some super security measures where one can track what their child is watching on television or what social sites they are prescribed to from the comfort of the caregiver’s laptop or phone.

Some will argue that it is intrusion of privacy but growing up during my time, one could only get privacy when you are old enough to be paying your own rent and bills. Read more on tips you might want adopt when parenting in this digital age.

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