I fear I’m going to become an uncool, really overprotective mum that doesn’t let her kid do anything fun for fear of them getting themselves hurt. After all, I grew her perfect little body for the best part of a year and will spend the rest of my life nurturing her mind and spirit. Surely it’s completely normal not to want any harm to come to her and to prevent that at all costs?
My daughter, Anya, is almost 6 months and one of the things that scares me the most about raising her is the digital world in which we live. Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderful in many ways; being able to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world, studying without actually being in a classroom and let’s not forget being able to Google the words to Under The Sea from the Little Mermaid when baby brain strikes. This is all great and I feel that we’re fortunate to be able to do all of those things. But what about the more sinister side to the Internet? We all know it’s there. The anonymity it affords users to be who they want and say what they want without any real consequences, freely available information on any topic of your choosing and all with just a few strokes on a keyboard or click of a mouse.
I think my likely options are as follows: don’t allow her to have a phone/laptop/tablet/computer until she’s at least 20, allow her occasional, but restricted, access to a family computer when she reaches an age where we feel it is appropriate to do so, and trust that we have taught her well enough to make sound judgment choices when it comes to her digital footprint.
When I was a teenager MSN Messenger was the big thing. You’d spend all day with your friends at school then get home, have tea, do your homework and spend some time chatting to your friends online. Well, that’s what most kids did. I remember being one of the last kids to get a computer. It’s all my friends would talk about and at the time I remember feeling like I was absolutely missing out; like I couldn’t join in when they were talking about last nights 4 way MSN conversation, because of course at that age inclusion is everything. But I still had friends. I wasn’t ostracised because I didn’t have a computer and as an adult I definitely don’t feel like my parents caused me to miss out.
As we all know babies don’t come with a handbook so I can’t just flip to the index for the relevant pages. So how do I, as a parent, strike the right balance between keeping my child safe yet not sheltering or limiting her? I think peer pressure and peer influence play a huge part here. How do you explain to a child that no, they can’t have a *insert technological device here* despite all their friends having them? Or that they can’t spend hours on the computer of an evening or weekend talking to their friends? I’m guessing that phrases such as, ‘Because I said so’ and ‘It’s for your own good’ go down about as well as a fart at a funeral.
I don’t think that sheltering her from it all is a viable option, or at all possible for that matter. I worry that if we try and keep her away from all things digital we risk allowing her to become entirely clueless and naïve to the whole thing which is surely worse. It is inevitable that she will grow up in a vastly different world to the one I did so I feel we are better off teaching her from the start; by arming her with the tools to be able to understand it all so that she knows what is normal and right and what is not.
I feel like I also need to address how my use of technology will influence her. Next time you’re in a restaurant, café or any other public place for that matter, have a look around and see how many people are on their phones. Someone sat across from a friend, or a partner perhaps, tapping away on a smartphone whilst their friend opposite does exactly the same thing. I’m absolutely guilty of this myself but have become much more conscious of how much I use my phone since Anya was born, particularly as she is so much more aware of what is going on around her now. The last thing I want, as she gets older, is to appear unavailable to her.
Having time ‘unplugged’ is hugely important both for her and for us as a family. Surely the answer then, is to lead by example? Teach her from a young age, as with life, what is right and normal in the digital space so that she can spot any potential dangers and not knowingly put herself in harm’s way. Alongside this, being open and honest with her so that she doesn’t feel spied on or pestered but that she also understands why we keep track of her use of a smart phone/tablet/laptop.
In an ever-changing technological world people seem to be constantly hungry for advancement. With that in mind, who knows what the world will look like in her future. Perhaps we all really will have built in microchips so ‘big brother’ can watch our every move. Maybe I’ll strike a deal with him so he’ll let me have access to Anya’s!
A Guest Blog from Jess Watson
Jess was born and bred in Gloucestershire and currently lives in Gloucester with her husband James, daughter Anya and their fur baby Penny the cat. As a family they love being outdoors and James continues to drag Jess up every steep Cotswold hill he can find. When not on maternity leave Jess works in the finance sector but is secretly a wedding addict after planning her own wedding last year. You can find her #mumlife confessions on Instagram and her wedding thoughts on her website, The Homemade Wedding Company, here.
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