I recently saw the latest Pixar movie “The Incredibles 2” in which the villain hypnotises people and controls their minds through video screens. It was no surprise that the villain’s chosen name was Screenslaver. The team at Pixar is very good at connecting with the real world as they explore issues that are important to us and touch on both our hopes and fears. While filled with humour and action sequences, The Incredibles 2 has a lot to say about parenting with Edna providing a quotable line. “Done properly, parenting is a heroic act…. done properly”.
Of course, when it comes to screen management in the home, many parents find themselves fighting against what feels like a technology villain and we worry as to whether we are doing it properly. Plenty of headlines in the news declare addictions to various online games like Fortnite, cyber bullying on social media sites, pornography, and so on which only help to fuel our fears.
In the process we can lose sight of the positive things that are provided by internet technology – access to information, connection with people, entertainment, shopping, etc. In order to parent properly, we want our children to make the most of the good things while helping to protect them from the bad things.
There are three dimensions where the internet has the biggest impact on our lives (both positive and negative).
Whether we like it or not, what we consume shapes our views, attitudes and behaviour. Many sites use algorithms to continue feeding us content based on that which we have already consumed. The outcome is that we are being exposed more and more to an echo chamber of content that reinforces the views we are developing. The vast array of content available to us is staggering. Forget the days of the local library and the encyclopedia. The resources now available for learning, entertainment and even spiritual growth are amazing. The problem is that there is no regulation on the content being consumed and putting boundaries in place is a difficult thing to do. It’s worth remembering that we can also contribute content and so guiding our children in what they contribute and share, especially on social media is also a challenge.
Relationships either grow or wane as a result of communication or lack of it. Technology enables relationships to grow as we send emails, texts, and messages, share photos and even connect with video linking apps. We can continue relationships with people when they are far away from us and we can do it quickly. Those we are connected to on social media sites are not just our contacts – they are our “friends”. There are three problem areas that can arise with online relationships.
– The need for acknowledgement: Our sense of value is too easily influenced by the number of ‘likes’ we get to a post, a comment or a photo”.
– Anonymity: We have no idea who we’re really communicating with as we get to know someone online.
– The real world: We spend so much time communicating online that we lose the ability to communicate properly offline.
When we are connected online we find it hard to disconnect. We become so engrossed in the endless array of possibilities that our daily lives are consumed by technology. Before we know it, hours have passed by, chores have been left undone, sleep has been sacrificed, exercise has been put off to another day and homework is abandoned.
It’s worth noting that these three areas of Content, Relationship and Time often overlap and influence each other. Parents do well to remember that boys tend to be responsive to content, whether it be violent, graphic or pornographic, while girls tend to be responsive to relational issues and being connected. Having said that, we all do well to be aware of the areas that are our own source of struggle. Before talking with others about these three areas, it’s important to begin with a self check to assess the extent to which technology is playing the role of villain in our own lives.
The content for this post has been largely influenced by chapter 2 of “Cyber-Parenting” by James and Simone Boswell. This is an excellent resource for raising kids in an online world. While currently out of print, I am seeking to acquire some copies in the coming month that can be made available for borrowing.
There is also a Facebook page run by James and Simone called CyberParenting which is regularly updated with useful articles to help parents navigate the world of the internet with their kids. https://www.facebook.com/CyberParentingBook/
The documentary, Screenagers, addresses the areas of social media, cyber bullying and online gaming – areas that many parents are concerned about. Screenagers explores how technology impacts on the development of youth and offers solutions to help adults empower their children to best navigate the digital world.
A screening of the documentary which we are hosting at Cronulla Cinema on Wednesday 29th August was initially sold out within a few weeks. However, we have negotiated with the promoters to have the screening relocated to a larger venue that will enable more people to attend. That means we can now sell another 90 tickets (13 of which have already gone in the last day).