Isn’t it so hard to parent in the digital age … I think back to when I was a young teenager. My Dad worked with computers, for IBM. Occasionally when he was on standby at the weekend, I would go to work with him. The size of the computer room was the size of my ground floor of my house. Huge. No not my house, but the computer room. (Or ‘machine room’ as it was known then).
But weirdly, the amount of processing power and memory is probably about the equivalent of my mobile phone today. I worked in technology for more than 25 years. When I first started, I didn’t even know what a modem was. I remember a colleague in my Washington DC office explaining how it worked. Bizarrely most children today have probably never seen a modem or heard the beeps and whirrs as it dials up to connect. That’s a whole generation of ‘technology’ born, lived, died. In our lifetime. For a few years, I worked with Wang VS. We had these huge hard drives, the size of a car wheel that we had to virtually unload, and then physically unload (unscrew). They were huge. Awkward to lift. And perhaps maximum capacity 256Mb. In today’s digital age, that’s enough to store a few photographs!
When I first started working at publishing house Thames & Hudson, we had a telex machine to communicate with our overseas printers. We bashed away on those keyboards – thump, thump, thump. I was naughty. My typing was incredibly accurate so I would telex ‘live’. It was against the house rules. You were supposed to create the telex tape, pass it through the machine to review for mistakes, correct the tape, review again and then send. Pfft. What a waste of time. I knew I was accurate. I knew I was a fast typist.
Anyway enough reminiscing.
Getting back to the technology of today and how we parent in the digital age … a few friends came round for Christmas lunch earlier in the week. We got to discussing how much technology we have at home, how much freedom we give our children to use that technology, how we supervise, and how difficult it is to set boundaries, and even harder when you realise you want to move those boundaries. I am so looking forward to discussing this whole topic with Elaine Halligan and Melissa Hood during The Confident Mother conference. They have some great articles on this topic on The Parent Practice blog. And after my lunch earlier in the week, I now have some great questions to ask them.
Such as … should we allow our children to have laptops, televisions or other technology devices in their bedroom? How much screen time is too much? Am I being really strict (and let’s face it, am I being really mean) by refusing to let my children play games during the week? What’s normal – what do other parents do? What damage can it do? Are we bringing up a generation of children who don’t know how to communicate other than through digital technology?
I had thought I was reasonably lenient … but listening to a friend who describes herself as very strict, it occurred to me that ‘strict’ and ‘lenient’ are such subjective words. My friend’s ‘strict’ is in fact my ‘lenient’.
My eldest daughter who is now at secondary school seems to need to spend so much time on the computer to do her homework. Now I know she gets distracted quite easily (which is why the desktop computer is in a family area so I can keep an eye on her), however at her age, we didn’t have the internet or computers or laptops even. I do remember homework taking hours (and getting cross with my youngest sister who was 8 years younger). I wonder how much ‘additional’ homework our children get because of technology. On the other hand, my children are probably more worldly wise in some respects. It is easy to research online to explore different societies, cultures, styles of music, etc. The challenges and the opportunities!
What about you? What are your fears and worries about being a parent in the digital age?
Leave a comment below and I’ll add to my list of questions for my interview with Elaine and Melissa in January.