Parent Reality: Raising Kids in the 21st Century

Part 1 in a series about parenting with technology

Raising kids…let’s call it what it is–hard. I remember when I was very young and pregnant with my first child. I had no real knowledge of how things were going to go. I watched other parents and picked different things out that I would try. I wanted to have the cutest outfits and set out to only purchase the “trendy” clothes for my baby. I was never going to yell at, or spank, my kid. I had a whole list of ambitions and goals for my child from going all natural for the birth to saving for college (and everything in between). I owned about 400 pregnancy/parenting books and spent hours reading them and referring back to them every time something did not seem right. I was the poster child for first time moms.

With the birth of my first child came an over-sized dose of reality. I mean, life literally came and laughed in my face at the notion of being that “picture perfect” mother. Honestly, now that I have been at this for a while, I do not think there is a such thing as a perfect mother. The funny thing is that I don’t know how my first born survived having me as a mother. I was inexperienced yet I thought I had it all figured out for her. She was, in essence, my experimental baby. I told other mothers about how I couldn’t wait until she was walking and talking. I thought she was going to be my best friend in life. It was a nice thought…until she actually started walking, talking, and forming opinions about the world.

Fast forward 11 years which takes you to my life now. Do you know how parents always say that things are only going to get more difficult as your kids get older? Well, I think that, not only do they get harder, but they also get far more confusing. I was shocked to find out that there is this stage right in between being an innocent little girl and becoming a teenager. It is a “transitional” stage called the Tween years. It is said to start, for girls, around age 8 and last until they turn 13. If this thought is not terrifying enough let me tell you that the reality of this stage is even scarier! I did not think I was going to be dealing with hormones, serious meltdowns, sassy attitudes, the constant need to be reminded about hygiene, or even BOYS until she was officially a teenager! I mean, at age 8 I was still playing with my Barbies and baby dolls not worrying about the latest iPhone app or being the only kid without a social media account.

I found myself right in the middle of a hurricane of choices and difficult decisions regarding which devices I would allow my child to connect to Wi-Fi. Let’s face it—being a kid now days is different than being a kid 30 years ago. Our children are being influenced by a society that puts emphasis on appearances than it does on achieving good grades. Our kids have constant contact with technology. My kids are assigned a computer at school which they use Google for their research papers. My 11-year-old has a meltdown over being grounded from her phone because that is her only means of communicating with the “outside world.” I have actually had to set aside one day per week so she will go outside to play. When I was a kid playing outside was life. If my parents forced me to be inside that was punishment enough.

TechnologyOverload_Edit
Photo Credit: Valerie Collins ~I took this photo as part of a series for a photography class project. It portrays how dominated our kid’s lives are with technology.

Phone time was actually phone time. I had 30 minutes (total) to be on the phone each day. That means that if I was on the phone with friend “A” for 10 minutes at 4 pm then I had 20 minutes remaining to get all my gossip in for the day. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Skype. Our internet was dial up and it took forever! I remember when I first got to Instant Messenger on my AOL account—I talked to my Grandma because my friends were not on the internet.

Do not get me wrong, I am not anti-technology. I love my smartphone and the fact that my daughter has a phone does put me at ease when she is away with friends (which does happen on occasion—mainly when I am on a cleaning frenzy). As I write this, my child is doing her chores with her iPod going which means that if a fire broke out I would be carrying all 90 pounds of confused out the door to safety because she is completely oblivious to anything going on around her. The internet has aided in my parenting efforts and my phone has given new meaning to “wait until your Dad hears about this.” I mean all I have to do is pick up my phone in a store and all three of them straighten up faster than I can find his number in my phone.

There is a happy medium and a way to make everyone happy when it comes to parenting with technology. The next post in this series will go over finding that happy medium. Using this technology to your advantage as a parent. This can be accomplished and it is important for our kids to be connected in this new era but it is just as important for us, as parents, to make sure that when they are connected, that the time spent is constructive.

I want to hear from you…

Leave me a comment and let me know what you have found to be the biggest struggle raising kids (of any age) in this new era of technology? What do your kids do differently than you did as a kid and how do you try incorporate the way you were raised into your parenting?

 

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7 thoughts on “Parent Reality: Raising Kids in the 21st Century

  1. My two year old know show to use my phone better than me. She didn’t have to be taught she just knows how to use it. I think it’s great that kids grow up with technology. But trying to get the phone or tablet off them
    …now that’s another thing! Bribery seems to be the only thing that works unless you want a tantrum!

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  2. Yes! I haven’t gotten to that stage yet luckily but my 11-year-old niece has made her debut on social media in the last year and while I’d never judge my sisters choices, she seems to have free access and is online all of the time via her own phone. It is a digital age, I feel so old fashioned when I express concern about how much time she spends online but my sister knows it comes from a place of love. That’s the hardest part in my opinion, convincing kids that the world is out here, not inside their phones or computers. Thanks for your post!

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    1. Thank you, Cara, for your comment.

      I have made the personal decision not to allow my kids on social media. It is a personal decision in parenting and I think it is great that you are so invested in your niece’s life! I have some awesome Aunts, myself, that are there for me any time I need them! With that being said, social media can be a great tool for learning as well as keeping in touch with family/friends (I will touch on that in another post).

      For me, safety becomes an issue and I am slowly loosening the reigns with my 11 year-old. I have to actively engage her in order to get her to explore outside. Once she proves to me that she can function without the phone and other devices then we will discuss all the scary stuff that I don’t want to think about 😉

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  3. Technology rules our lives, there’s no argument there. If we don’t set boundaries for our kids they won’t know where they lie and won’t be able to set them for themselves when they’re older. While my kids (9 and 5) aren’t on social media I have allowed the 9 year to start blogging. His interactions thus far are with 2 other kids and a couple parents. So long as it’s closely monitored, I think it can be a good thing. In my case, it’s used to motivate because he has to write on paper what he wants to type on his blog in order to practice his penmanship. Technology is the way of the world. We are doing our children a disservice if we deny all of it to them.

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    1. Thank you for your input, stomperdad.

      I can’t even tell you how much I love the idea of having your son write his blog posts out before typing them. I think that is ingenious and we need more parents like you in the world!

      Handwriting anything now days has become foreign to our kids. I will never forget the day my daughter’s teacher looked at me during a conference and said “we don’t worry about penmanship. If I can make out what she is saying then she is fine.” What kind of backwards teaching is that?! I understand that technology is going to play a vital role in our kids’ lives but that doesn’t mean we should forget the basics, and foundation, of communication. I applaud you for keeping the art of writing alive in your son.

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