[The following column was printed in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, North Dakota’s largest daily newspaper, on October 19, 2010. Reprinted with permission.]
Parenting Perspectives: Is technology a parent’s friend or foe?
I feel like the kid who’s perpetually late to class nudging the student in the next seat over: “Uh, what page are we on again?”
We entered childhood plunking out single-fingered sentences on our parents’ manual typewriters. Laying our hands on our electric Brother typewriters a decade later, we felt ready to conquer the world.
Eventually, computers arrived, and we dwelled for a time in the mysterious world of DOS, floppy disks and the dot matrix.
I still remember a nonfiction picture book about the history of communications on my childhood bookshelf. It predicted we’d someday have the capacity to see the person with whom we were communicating on a screen.
I thought yeah, and Elroy Jetson is my next-door neighbor.
Who among us could have predicted we’d outgrow the need for typewriter ink cartridges, bottles of white-out and 8-mm videotapes to send “snail mail” updates with images of our first children to faraway family?
When the world shifted, many of us were caught off guard. We knew just enough about computers to slip quietly into that new world – like tip-toeing into the classroom at quarter past the hour – but not enough to navigate it without the occasional gnashing of teeth.
Still, I promised myself at 14 I’d never turn into my grandmother, who viewed my frosted jean jacket as one might regard the mold from an old casserole in the back of the fridge. So, I’m trying.
During this process, I’ve discovered texting has the capacity to handle discussions with my teens that would have been otherwise difficult. It’s also effectively reduced noise levels in our home; requests that used to come in shrill voices from the other end of the house now arrive digitally in muted tones.
I’ve also noticed my kids’ higher knowledge in the technical arena empowers them – usually in a healthy way that also serves me well.
Those of us straddling the “before digital” and “after digital” worlds find ourselves uniquely placed in time. Unlike earlier generations, we can’t say, “I think I’ll skip out on this one.” We’re called to either embrace the good of technology or risk losing our connection with our children.
Let’s not forget that technology can be a tool for helping us stay connected to one another as well. We’re in this together, after all.
One of my friends has gotten so used to texting her teen that it’s the only way she’ll respond to me now. Slowly, we’re leading one another into the current of today’s technological river.
And as long as u can get used 2 composing ur msgs in 160 characters or less, uve got it made.