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?
I agree technology has taken over and I feel puts a lot of pressure on us to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ so to speak. I remember never being bored growing up and always having to come up with different things to do and I let my daughter do this too, she has an amazing imagination for it and loves to make up things to do and play. Also both of us spend a lot of time using my s4 and I am resisting the pressure for her to have her own phone. #WotW
It’s so rare that my phone is far from me, and I know I have to make a point to leave it away from where we’re playing, and I never have it at the dinner table or at bedtime with the kids as it will distract me, I know. It’s crazy, isn’t it? And it means our brains don’t really switch off, too, I think. I cannot imagine how all of that housework got done in the 50s, though I think you’re right that kids were better at creating their own fun. When my two are together, I just let them be most of the time as they make up the most wonderful games and are so content, so it’s lovely to see their imaginations take flight. It frees me up and it’s good for them, win win! Thanks for sharing with #WotW x
I go in to school to listen to the year 4s reading. One girl asked me if I had read all the St Clare’s and Famous Five books at her age. I said yes, as we didn’t have all the distractions that are around now. Her mouth dropped open as she discovered that there were no mobile phones, texting (she seemed most bothered by this one), tablets etc, etc. What did we do apart from reading? Climbed trees and made tree houses. She looked stunned.
It is different now. I’m forever telling my teen that she has so many more challenges than we had. 24/7 social media for a start. I don’t envy it, although it does give them so many opportunities too.
We have times through the day when no-one is allowed to use gadgets. It works for us. #WotW
It’s Back in Time for the Weekend a great programme?
Technology has changed our lives so much in such a short space of time, and I do struggle sometimes to get the balance right with the children when they now see technology as just part of their day-to-day lives.
Recently my daughter asked what a red phone box was. When I told her she said ‘so do people take the phones out of the boxes and walk around with them?’
I also agree with you about the difficulties being a SAHM can be when you’re sometimes alone in the house all day with no one to see or talk to apart from at school pick up or drop off. Then technology can so easily connect you with the rest of the world. Then again, maybe in the 50s they were more sociable? Interesting read
I love my iPhone – maybe a bit too much. I’d be interested to know how much time I spend on mine. I think I’d also be shocked! I am really happy I live in times where were have so many mod-cons to help us with daily tasks. I think I’d very quickly be lost if I was thrown into one of those programmes. I love to watch them though 🙂 #MaternityMondays
Interesting – I use my iPhone a lot for snaps too and resist checking it all the time. I spend a lot of time online but it’s nice at times to put the devices down and actually spend time with each other. I’m a child of the 70s and the most technological thing I can remember is my etch-a-sketch 🙂 #wotw
I agree that there is too much technology these days, we do not have too much of it in our house as we do not own that much in the way of techy gadgets but the little ones definitely know a lot more about things than I did as a child. I didn’t join the world of smartphones until christmas just gone and was perfectly fine without it but I now do find myself picking it up quite a bit to check social media and really shouldn’t. A thought provoking blog post. #Maternitymondays
I agree with this totally. I’m horribly addicted to my phone – what monitoring apps are you using? #twinklytuesdays
Hubby gets a me for worrying too much about entertaining the gremlin. I remember playing alone or with my bro tonnes and I remember watching telly!! I think we feel too much pressure from social media to create activities!! In terms of phones I agree with you. We are all obsessed. I’m trying to not pick mine up when playing with the gremlin or sit and have a flick when she’s chilling with telly! It’s so hard though. Great post xx #theteuthabout #twinklytuesday
Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x
I love that TV show! It’s difficult to find a balance with technology. It has given us so much – made housework easier, introduced us to new ideas, enabled us to find out anything and keep in touch with anyone. But, at the same time, it’s harder to live in the ‘here and now’ when you’re always connected. I try and just switch all the devices off some nights and we play a board game, or read aloud instead. x #thetruthabout
I am so with you on this. I am guilty of always having my phone with me. I am trying to cut down on how often I look at it. I’d be scared of using the app – not sure I would like to actually know how much time I spend on social media… #TwinklyTuesday
I hadn’t really thought about the correlation between the extra time we have on our hands nowadays thanks to technology and the pressure we put on our children to learn at younger and younger ages. Having said that I do think that earlier learning is driven by government targets in schools which we don’t have much say about. Also my mother in law recently commented that EJ (at three and a half) is a bit rubbish at doing jigsaws without a lot of help and also that he didn’t appear to her to be able to count beyond 6. She’s from a previous generation but has obviously bought into the idea of children hitting some sort of arbitrary targets by certain ages.
My kids do spend a *lot* of time on tablets these days too. Now we have a 50 minute commute to school etc. I rely on them to keep the kids from getting too bored on those drives and then when we get home I rely on them so that I can just put my feet up after a long day! It feels like a very bad precedent to set but we’re stuck in this rut right now. Also – winter doesn’t help. Having said that it was great to get them out of the house without any technology for four hours to Richmond Park on the sunny Sunday just gone – proper kids outdoorsy stuff like chucking enormous branches into ponds and poking about down random rabbit holes 🙂 Roll on warmer weather, eh? 🙂 Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout X
That is interesting Sam, maybe we are actually putting less pressure on little ones now? Who knows! Fascinating though. Wow hon sounds like you are coping so well with such a difficult situation and tablets would be essential I completely agree there! Glad you had such a lovely day on Sunday, sounds wonderful xxx
All depends what technology and how it is used. It can help enormously, such as watching things on YouTube like the lunar landings. It can also be brain sapping. As for letting the kids get bored, it’s essential. I leave mine ot get bored and it does wonders for them. #twinklytuesday
We also read that it’s good for kids to get bored, that’s when they are at their most creative! Usually up to mischief!!! Free play is also important, I think parents get too hung up on doing stuff with their kids all the time and making it Pinterest worthy. We haven’t be watching ‘back in time for the weekend’ but it sounds like a fascinating programme! #TwinklyTuesday
Really interesting to look at the changes over time. Farmer Nick is a dinosaur and doesn’t use his phone, he has a brick for emergency calls and that’s it. I am on mine nearly as much as my kids, they even facebook each other from different ends of the house rather than walk up stairs to have a conversation, at least their reading and writing is improving! #TwinklyTuesday
Really enjoyed reading this and it is so fascinating how different things were back then. I think I would really enjoy that programme you first referenced, sounds educating and entertaining too.
I often look at screen times and my example on my phone/laptop and some days I know that its been ridiculous .. I feel we have a good indoor/outdoor balance but agree that even when outside, its there as a camera so then the WIFI temptation is there etc. How simpler life once was, how lovely the school holiday adventures were when you were out from morning til night making rose perfumes and bike riding, and that was just the 90’s! I am not against my kids watching TV as I enjoyed it after school and it is a source of relaxation for me and so probs is for them too, but obviously everything in moderation. So grateful for a washer though haha x #bestandworst
I think technology is a bit of a double-edged sword – it is amazing to have so much knowledge at our fingertips and the ability to take so many photos of our children but it can also feel intrusive and the smartphone can be too much of a distraction at times. I think we also put a lot of pressure on ourselves as parents as a result because what we see of others’ lives on social media is often the highlights rather than the reality. I have to admit though that whenever I start worrying that I’m not doing enough focused activity with my children, or not giving them enough of my attention, I do remember that my mother was often busy doing housework and left us to play independently and that this is a useful skill for children to learn too.
I wonder about this all the time and found this really interesting to read. I agree that I spend far too much time on my phone and I find myself reaching for it when I should just be focusing on the kids more. It’s my guilty pleasure, but I try and make sure that we do a stay and play or playgroup type activity every day, if for no other reason than it makes me leave my phone in my bag and just concentrate on them with no interruptions for a couple of hours! I have always wondered what children used to do in decades gone by as I really don’t remember my parents “playing” with me, and we certainly didn’t go to all these soft plays and petting farms etc every week like we do now? I sometimes think that my eldest has just become accustomed to going out somewhere everyday and it’s just the norm for her now? Am I spoiling her? Or am I neglecting her every time I pick up my phone? It’s so hard to say, but we’re also much more aware of these questions due to the amount of social information that is now available through those very phones! I wish I had the answers.
I’ve got a slightly different take on this one. Whilst I do try to limit it for the teenager & make him go out with his friends rather than just talking to them via xbox live, with the three year old it’s a major breakthrough for him. He has Autism so using an iPad has really helped him, especially when we’re out. He’s able to focus on something and block out all the overwhelming sights and sounds. We’re going to start using it in his speech therapy too x Thanks for linking up to #MaternityMondays
Such an interesting post. I often wonder about the difference between parenting now and in the past. There seems to be much more pressure to interact and entertain your children constantly these days, whereas I hardly recall that from my own childhood. I was left to entertain myself and I can’t help wondering sometimes if that’s better. Thanks for sharing such a thought-provoking post x #bestandworst