I was watching Terminator Genisys the other day and it got me thinking about how much we use technology in our daily lives as parents. I don’t want to give the story away, but in this particular film, we learn that Genisys – which later becomes AI system Skynet – is a global operating system designed to provide a seamless user interface that links all devices through the cloud. Obviously shit goes bad and there’s a race to prevent Genisys going live and subsequently putting the world in a post-apocalyptic state where machines rule humans.
We’re not quite at that state just yet and hopefully never will be, but films like this act as a warning for where society could head. As a parent to a toddler who already uses technology and will only consume more as she gets older, it’s something to think about. I therefore thought it’d be interesting to write two posts looking at (1) the positives of technology when parenting, and (2) the negatives of technology when parenting. This is the first of those two posts.
Like a lot of families, we use technology – phones, tablets, TV etc – quite frequently with Toddler L, so I’m obviously quite pro things like this. I’m certainly not a parent who tries to distance her from technology or limit her use as it might ‘fry her brain’. But that’s not to say that I don’t worry about certain technology-related things. As tech becomes even more widespread and smarter, questions are raised about the impacts on younger generations.
It’s hardly surprising then that technology – and its use by kids – is a hugely controversial topic. Just think about parenting hot topics surrounding the use of tech such as ‘how much screen time should my kid get’, ‘when is too young to own a smartphone’ and ‘how much should I share of my kids online’. As an example, an Offcom study in 2014 found that 71% of 5 to 15 year olds had access to a tablet, with 34% actually owning their own. For 3 to 4 year olds, 11% had their own tablet. I can only imagine that these numbers have increased over the last three years too.
I’ve just been setting up an old tablet for Toddler L. 40 mins later, I find myself playing the CBeebies Playtime app whilst on my own!
— The DADventurer (@The_dadventurer) November 14, 2015
In my 32 years on the planet, I’ve seen huge leaps and bounds in how technology has integrated into our daily lives. As a kid, I obviously had some tech, but this is almost archaic and rudimentary compared to children of today. When I think back, I had a TV with integrated video recorder / player, a Mega Drive, a Hi-Fi, a Walkman, then got my first mobile phone – a Nokia 3310 – in my final year at secondary school. That was pretty much it.
These days, technology is all around us and forms a huge part of our daily family lives. The exposure that Toddler L has had to tech is pretty incredible when you compare it to my three-year old self. She knows how to use remotes to control the TV, she understands how to swipe and tap touchscreens and she can use her voice to make Google Home work. I don’t even think our TV had a remote control when I was a kid, let alone touchscreens and voice-activated devices.
Then there’s the other stuff she’s become accustomed to because it’s part of life. Having a photo taken and instantly seeing the result, Skyping with grandparents who are over 100 miles away, reading books on a tablet and being able to listen to nursery rhymes or watch a particular programme wherever and whenever she wants. It’s without question that technology has – and continues to – have a huge impact on both us as parents and on our kids.
Love a good Skype call with the folks when Toddler L is on great form. It’s crap they live 3+ hours away, but tech helps keep them involved.
— The DADventurer (@The_dadventurer) January 10, 2016
So, after that slightly longer than planned intro – who knew I had so much to say about technology – I thought I’d list some of the ways that technology helps me as a parent:
The Positives Of Technology When Parenting
Technology does have a way of making parenting ‘easier’. As mentioned, we use technology quite a lot with Toddler L as a way of entertaining, teaching, sharing and communicating. Below are just some of the ways I think that technology is a positive for modern parenting:
- We have infinite amounts of information at our fingertips and can find stuff out in seconds. For previous generations, you either needed to know your shit, or make it up, when your kid asked a question. Now though, a quick search on the internet – and recent tech like Google Home – give you facts, figures and answers just like *that*. As a kid, I had to look stuff up in books or use an encyclopedia CD-ROM – kids these days won’t know that laborious process.
We’ve definitely hit the ‘question stage’ of toddlerdom. I might have to defer to Google Home and get her to ask it directly.
— The DADventurer (@The_dadventurer) April 21, 2017
- The internet – and then social media – has spread ideas at an incredible rate and given the ‘normal’ parent access to a huge library of resources. Take things like toddler recipes, messy play ideas, parenting hacks and various other Pinterest-worthy ventures. These things might not come naturally for most, but YouTube tutorials, blog posts, Buzzfeed etc makes them accessible to all. I know that I’m a better parent because of ideas I’ve found on vlogs and blogs, which in turn, is beneficial to Toddler L.
- Technology allows 24/7 access to entertainment, both in and out of the home. These days, Toddler L not only has access to hundreds of live channels on Virgin, but streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Video and DisneyLife means she can watch anything she asks for. These can also be downloaded and watched on tablet / smartphone even when she’s not at home. We’ve also discovered the likes of LittleBabyBum for nursery rhymes and Cosmic Kids for yoga on YouTube for additional ways to entertain, as well as various apps which provide educational games. Basically, tech can give you a bit of a breather!
We discovered toddler yoga on YouTube earlier. We now never need to leave the house as this counts as exercise. pic.twitter.com/pMrOll9wFG
— The DADventurer (@The_dadventurer) June 2, 2017
- Smartphones and tablets give you the ability to capture any moment instantly through photo and video. I have tens of thousands of photos / videos from Toddler L’s nearly three years on the planet, so have rarely missed a moment of her life. These are then instantly uploaded to Dropbox so that they’re backed up, then can be shared publicly on social media or privately with family. As Toddler L’s grandparents don’t live near, so don’t see her that often, this becomes a great way of keeping them updated. Ultimately, tech allows the easy capture and sharing of our lives.
- Tech can also be used for monitoring in ways that parents previously couldn’t. For instance, we had a baby monitor with video and movement sensor so we could not only keep an eye on Baby L, but also be alerted if she stopped moving. Going one step further, we now have O2 Home, which allows us to put a camera into Toddler L’s room and see a live feed on an app on my phone. Not that I’ve used one, but I’ve also read about apps that can track where your kid is or wearable tech which does the same thing. Tech certainly helps with safety and security.
So those are five of the main ways that I think technology has a positive impact as a parent. What do you reckon? How does technology benefit you and your kids? Let me know below!
Check out the second post – the negatives of technology when parenting.