The other day, when I wrote about how my 9-year-old daughter had seen Miley Cyrus's Wrecking Ball video while playing at a friend's home, I didn't think it would necessarily cause a significant response, which is GREAT (don't get me wrong). It even caught the attention of www.mamapedia.com and was posted there yesterday (with "light" editing).
Not sure if the attention was the result of my mentioning Miley Cyrus (a young woman who creates a lot of controversy), or if it was because I added my daughter's age to the title of the blog post but, one thing is for sure, there is a lot of passionate debate over kids and electronic use.
It kind of reminds me of the ongoing (although less trendy) argument between stay-at-home moms and working moms. There can be a lot of assumption and misperception on both sides of the fence...and a lot of judgment and unproductive words slung back and forth.
After reading the responses on my website, reviewing some emails, and reading and responding to the many comments left on the mamapedia site, I feel the biggest questions or concerns parents have centering around electronic/social media use are the following:
1. When is the "right" time to give my child a cell phone or an i-whatever?
2. How do I protect my child from seeing things I would not want him/her to see while on the Internet?
3. What if I have rules and restrictions in place, but my child is visiting someone else's home where the rules are less strict?
I think the lens through which we view electronic use for our children depends largely on parenting style and on personal life experience.
Some parents believe their kids should have the latest, greatest technology at an early age because if they don't the child will (a) feel left out and/or (b) make the parent look as if they can't provide for the child. Cell phone ownership, before age ten, can be useful in situations such as your child having to walk home from school and you want the security of being able to keep in contact. Why a child under the age of ten would need a phone other than for that reason I do not know. Maybe someone will enlighten me?
Then, there are some parents vehemently opposed to allowing their child liberal access to technology because they are afraid the child will come across violent or highly sexualized content...so 'no use' is the best approach in their eyes. They won't allow their child to have a phone or personal electronic device until much later than the first group, and it will have lots of security installed on it.
The ones who allow the technology will argue the kids who don't have liberal access will crave it like a dieter salivates over a piece of chocolate cake.
Most of us fall somewhere in between these two viewpoints on electronic use and our kids. We want them to benefit from today's technology, but we don't want the pitfalls such as their spending too much time in front of a screen, or seeing porn by accident. Since the Internet and the variety of technology it resonates through will not be going away, I believe it is our job as parents is to do the best we can to regulate what our children see and hear.
Because, I don't care what you say, kids need someone in their lives to tell them it isn't right to watch programming that demoralizes other human beings. Even if the person(s) willingly created the content.
This is by no means an easy task. It takes time, a commitment to making your kids future a priority by monitoring and setting boundaries and teaching values like modesty, it takes demonstrating alternate ways to entertain oneself unrelated to electronic use, and having a reasonable internal barometer on what is right and wrong yourself. You can't teach what you don't know, right?
Some of the comments I fielded with regard to my last post were made to get me to question where I stand on this issue by trying to make me feel like an uptight, over protective mother. One who cannot tolerate nudity or talk about sex with my children. Yah, whatever.
I have never been under the delusion of thinking I know all the answers about child rearing, I don't think anyone can...even fully credentialed professionals. I do spend a great deal of time reading, talking with, and observing kids and parents. I have also had a bit of personal experience which I have tried very hard to learn from.
It is my opinion when you give a child too much too soon the good intentions you have in your heart are met with confusion on their part for observing or listening to content they are not ready for. This DOES have an impact on kids.
It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round, and all kinds of parents. Rather than argue about whose view on the subject of electronic use and our kids is right, let's agree to disagree and move on to something much more important...spending time with our kids!
After all, THAT is something we cannot get back.