Parents, are we responsible technology users? Or do our kids think of us as hypocritical?
Recently, my eight-year-old has been asking for a tab in repeat. When asked why he wanted to have one, his prompt answer always runs along these lines – because a number of his classmates have one and it’s a fun thing to play with all the game apps one can install in it. I’ve also tried, in repeat, to put him off the idea of having his own gadget reasoning that he’s still young to have one.
As a parent, I am well aware that technology rules in these present times means more than just overseeing my kids’ TV hours as opposed to some 30 or 50 years ago. In addition to TV, we have the internet to watch out for and, of course, the use of gadgets like tablets and smartphones for entertainment purposes. We try to put up rules that place our children’s use of these things within reasonable limits and boundaries. Sets of laws like no TV starting from this time of the day/night, the use of internet or social media sites should be until this hour only, no texting with friends from so to so hours are fairly common in today’s household. And when our kids cry unfair over the rules we try to impose, our reasons always run along these lines – because we want them to be responsible technology users and we want them to learn proper time management.
However, are we, parents, responsible technology users also? Or do our kids think of us as hypocritical?
One Study Finds Out!
Researchers from the University of Washington set about to find out the answer to the less asked question when it comes to technology use at home – if they’re given a chance, what will our kids’ technology rules for us, parents?
And the answers – from kids of some 249 surveyed families with ages ranging from 10 to 17 – were quite surprising.
When the UW researchers asked them the above mentioned question, their answers were . . .
Supervision Needed – kids hate rules especially ones imposed by grown-ups, right? But the more than 200 ones surveyed all agreed that they generally need supervision when it comes to technology use. It’s a telling sign that underneath all those whines and “It’s unfair!” cries are actually grateful hearts for moms and dads who care enough to set boundaries.
Be Present – Children feel that technology gets in the way when they want to communicate with the grown-ups. Kids say that parents shouldn’t use technology – tinker with the laptop, personal computer or even the smartphone – in certain situations like when they’re trying to talk to them.
No Phone Use While Driving – Kids feel that parents shouldn’t use their phones to text or call when they’re behind the wheels even when the light’s red. Personally, it’s one valid concern as there are reported cases of accidents happening because the person behind the wheel was preoccupied with talking on the phone/texting.
Use Technology Moderately – Surprisingly, the same grown-ups who tell their kids to stop Facebooking [or whatever social media site they’re on] at a certain time just can’t help themselves from spending hours scrolling through their own FB newsfeed. I know because I’m one of them.
Practice What You Preach – Kids feel that parents are two-faced when it comes to household technology rules – letting their children follow them but not actually doing so themselves. Researchers cited the example of using the internet during mealtimes. Sounds familiar, anyone?
Child Autonomy – This is a contradiction. While kids want their parents to set rules for them, they also want to be able to make decisions about technology use without interference from the grown-ups. My own personal take on this one is that parents should lay off watching their kids’ backs all the time. Allow them a misstep or two and let them learn from their mistakes.
Please No Oversharing – According to the team who conducted the study, twice as many of the kids they surveyed as their parents expressed their concerns about family members oversharing information and pictures about them in social media sites like Facebook. Interviewed kids went on to say that they found some of the content embarrassing. They also felt frustrated that their parents continue to do it.
Among these seven general categories, the most common expectation kids have of their parents circled around being present in social settings like during meals, when a family member is talking or when the family is engaged in certain activities. Researchers also noted that the children find it easy to follow the rules that were developed collectively by the family and those that the parents abide with as well.
To Sum It All Up
The study was a sure eye-opener for me. At times, I talk with my kids with one eye as the other’s on the monitor of my computer as I try to organize writing thoughts in my head. You could be, too, and the study’s telling us that this isn’t healthy and is affecting our children. Secondly, it pays to think of our kids as “little adults”. Little as they still need our guidance and comfort in some ways, adults because in matters pertaining to them, they do have a say.