I’ve written before about how I think technology has changed the way we parent but I have been thinking about it a lot again lately. We’ve been watching the series Back in Time for the weekend which has been fascinating from a social history point of view. It’s been really fun to see the family thrown back in time and to see how much has really changed in such a short amount of time. We really are so lucky and I think we all take so much for granted we really do. Anyway it has made me really think about how technological advances have massively changed parenting. (I’m talking primarily about parenting small children here as that is all I have experience with so far!)
In the 50s things were so different. There were less white goods and everyone in the country lived a very frugal existence. According to the programme, women at the time averaged over 70 hours of housework a week. Exhausting! So I can’t help but wonder what were their small children doing while they were doing housework? I know that babies and toddler’s were often sat outside in a pram to watch the world go by. Can you imagine that now? What about the rest of the time or when they were walking or climbing. Were little ones in a playpen or were they sat on the hip of a mum who was trying to get so much housework done? I have no idea how they did it to be honest! How much interaction was there between parent and toddler?
Over the course the next 60 years things have really changed so much. We now have lots more extra time to be with our kids which is great but I can’t help feeling that comes with problems of its own.
For a start there is issues surrounding boredom, and this is two-fold. Firstly, as a mum, yes I get bored sometimes. The mundanity of life as a SAHM is real. Doing the housework and looking after the kids isn’t always that stimulating so yes I do get bored. (I struggle to imagine a 50s housewife and mum having time to be bored as they knew no different). At which point I turn to technology. I grab my phone and play a game or check social media, but I will come onto that more later. There is also the issue of boredom related to our kids as in that we rarely allow them to get bored.
With so much technology, TV programmes, apps, YouTube etc. Sometimes it is hard to get them away from screens. In moderation this can be good and I’ve said before that I think kids can learn from TV but it obviously can’t replace interaction and games with parents. So I try to do lots of activities with the kids. But again how good for them are these activities?
There is huge amounts of pressure to do amazing things with the kids. Social media, blogs and pinterest all add to this pressure as there are so many wonderful activities, ways to entertain our kids and help them learn. Messy play, sensory play, small world play. Creating elaborate ways for them to play. Do they really need them though? I’ve read before that actually it is good for kids to be bored as it allows their imagination to step in. By constantly giving them activities that our imagination has come up with, are we doing them a disservice? All the sensory play and messy play that we are convinced is so good for children, parents never used to do it and we turned out alright didn’t we? Do they really need it?
We do all this from a good place as we want them to develop and learn and grow but I do question it sometimes. For my part, over the past 3 yrs I have learned that the more specific I want an activity to be the less it will work. My kids just don’t go for it and do much better when I allow play to be freer. To give them a material, be it crayons, paint, lentils or water and let them do what they want with it. The more I try to contrive a theme or set a purpose the less well it goes. But I figure that’s just the way we are as so many other kids seem to love activities set up for them by their parents.
We are able to do these sorts of activities because we have been freed by technology, to a certain extent. But does this all put too much pressure on us and our children. Are we now expecting too much of them. I wonder what the standards were in 50s, 60s, 70s etc. Did we expect kids to write their name before starting school? Or be on their way to be able to read, or learning to swim at such young ages? Is it a good thing that we now want them to learn at ever younger ages, that we have more time to help them learn… Or are we putting too much pressure on them so young? Expecting so much of them as proof that we are being good parents?
As much as technology has freed us from housework, it had tethered us in other ways. Smartphones. I was a relatively latecomer to the world of Smartphones. I was quite happy with my old phone which called and text and had basic games on. I had a computer for using the Internet so why did I need all that fancy stuff on my phone. Fast forward to today and my galaxy s6 is in my hand for far, far too much of the day. I know it is but it is a habit that’s has to break.
Smartphones are so much more than phones. They are our calendars, our email, our cameras, our games consoles, our dictionary, thesaurus and encyclopedia. They are how we communicate with friends, family and the world. They are how we consume the news, order our food shopping, track our fitness and exercise and, for many of us, are our creative outlet. I am blogging using my phone right now. So it is no wonder they feel permanently attached to us.
But they are so isolating too. How many times are you sat in a room and everyone is on their phone? I hate when I see the kids clamouring for hubs’ attention when he is glued to an article he is reading on his smartphone. The trouble is I know it is the same the other way and hubs hates seeing me on my phone when I am with the kids. It’s no wonder the kids want to play on them, what example are we setting? But as I mentioned earlier, sometimes when the kids are playing happily I know that if I get up to go and do something they will want me back, but sitting there I get bored so it is all too easy to reach for my phone and quickly check Facebook or Instagram a photo. The problem is that you get sucked in and it is rarely a ‘quick’ check.
That is something I am trying to work on. I use my phone as my primary camera and I love the snaps I take of them. I also enjoy sharing the pictures on social media… So I don’t want to stop but I do need to stop checking how many likes or comments there has been. I’m not even sure why I care really? I also need to cut down on my guilty pleasure of playing candy crush. I mean really. What a waste of time. But I feel it keeps my brain ticking over when I am bored and I can pick it up and put it down easily.
Hubs and I have both downloaded apps to monitor how much we use our phones. I am intrigued to see what they will say and we hope to use them to cut down that time. To create rules about not using them at the table or when playing with the kids. So we shall see how we go.
What do you think? Has technology helped parenting or hindered it? Does it make us put too much pressure on ourselves and our kids?