The human experience of parenting has changed some over the years. Biologically, having a child still involves all the relevant body parts, but these parts do not necessarily have to belong to the parent in question. A mother’s body or a man’s sperm can now all be borrowed, rented, or purchased. All the wonders of the laboratory and the operating suite of modern medicine refined for assisting pregnancy confirm the power of the human drive to procreate and start a family.
The work of parenting has been changing just as much as the biology of conception. Technology has changed the way our children experience the world, themselves and each other. Recent developments allow every computer and cell phone user to remain constantly online and connected. Parenting now has to involve the management of our children’s online experiences.
In the last 15 years, technology has made personal communication so fast, efficient, and inexpensive that our world has become both larger and smaller. It has expanded across cultural and geographic barriers while shrinking to fit in the palms of our hands. Cell phone ownership has lessened how much young people talk on the phone. They are more likely to receive and send short, private text messages around the clock.
Using social networks like Facebook leaves them wide open to the emotional suffering from nasty, thoughtless comments or photo posts. Such suffering is now a regular part of the adolescent experience on because of this platform. It is old fashioned gossip, but now at lightening speeds. Even so, internet pornography poses more serious risks.
The over-use of this means of sexual arousal, particularly by young males, interrupts their sexual development. It can quickly move them toward addiction and disrupt adult partnered sexual experiences. I witness pornography-related problems on a routine basis in my therapy practice.
So what’s a good parent to do?
Four Things Families Can Do to Mitigate the Negative Effects of A Hyper-Connected Culture
1. Model your own appropriate use of technology. If you do not want you child glued to a computer screen every free moment they have, be sure you are modeling an active adult life that includes other sources of entertainment and relaxation. The life you model will be the template they use as they move toward their own adulthood.
2. Maintain appropriate controls. Just as you do not allow your children to watch television at three o’clock in the morning, establish similar, clear expectations for their cell phone and computer use. If necessary, install programs that automatically shut the computer down at bedtime, and make sure their phones are off and not in use at night.
Some cellular plans allow parents to control access for each phone on the plan according to time of day or amount of use. Use these restrictions if they are available to you. Put your family computer in a shared space, like an office or family room, and check in on what your computer-savvy child is doing from time to time.
3. Respect your child’s privacy. Depending on the circumstances of their early years, your child will likely have a developed sense of managing friendships by the time they seriously engage with technology. Arising challenges are normal and you should be there to help them when they need support. However, do not get into the habit of searching your child’s text messages, chat logs, or photos for inappropriate things. Let your child manage their own life as much as possible.
4. Encourage your family to be involved in real world experience. My hope is that we will turn again to the real world for meaning, solace and pleasure when the new level of internet connectivity and telecommunications become commonplace. We should encourage our youth to do real world activities as often as possible such as sports, the arts, community service, outdoor adventuring and spiritual and political exploration.
Parenting is still a skill and an art form. Most parents have children and figure out the process as they go along. And while living in a culture of hyper-connection can be difficult, it is still up to parents, who still purchase and pay for these wonders of technology, to be in charge of their use in their children’s lives.
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