Parenting in the Modern World

In this article, published in the Personal Health section of the NY Times, author Jane Brody expresses her alarm at the growing number of mothers who are tuned into ipods, iphones and blackberry’s and not to their children.  These distractions were not available when she was raising her children, and as a result she communicated with her children more.  The article goes on to point out all the things parents should be doing to raise communicative children including, speaking to them about where they are going, what they are doing, and what they are going to do.  The implication is that if we don’t do these things our children may not learn how to speak, or, not speak as well.

I have a few problems with this article.  First, we really have no idea how much these women (and, ahem, men) are speaking to their children.  For all we know, these parents could be speaking just as much if not more to their children than parents a generation ago.  Second, parents are probably using technology to connect with other parents and friends, a necessary but all-be-it difficult task in the socially isolating world.  Maybe Brody was never distracted with technology, but I am sure she was distracted when she was socializing with other parents and friends, perhaps in a time when there was more face-to-face social interaction.  The truth is that parenting in the modern age can be a very lonely and isolating endeavor.  What is left out in this article, and I think important to note, is that these parents crave interaction with other adults and they are turning to technology to get it.  Further, I am not so sure that children will necessarily suffer.  Did child suffer as a result of the printed word, did they suffer with the introduction of TV?  No, parents have always found ways to distract themselves with various technologies to explore their own interests and meet their very important needs for connection, and autonomy.  While I believe an active interest in our children is healthy and beneficial, I think our culture often promotes an unhealthy style of parenting that blurs the identities of parents and children and shames parents for their natural desire to independent from their children.  To me, this approach isn’t good for anyone, parent or child.

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3 responses to “Parenting in the Modern World

  1. Todd Seabury-Kolod

    I appreciated the point about parents needing to network–and the need to fight the isolation that can exist around caring for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

  2. Instead of condemning technology as a barrier to one’s children, parents could be proactive and use it as a tool for increased – or at least different – interaction and communication with their children.
    Knowing that prohibitions often increase the desire, I have allowed my daughter to have a facebook account (of course accompanied by the necessary warning against publishing privat data etc.). At the same time I set up an account for myself too. Many of the games on fb require many neighbors so that one can advance to the next level. Consequently my daughter and many of her friends asked me to be their friend on fb so that I can then become their neighbor in a variety of games (Farmville etc.).
    Instead of the expected isolation on the computer, I have developed a whole new connection with my daughter and her friends. For example, it often happens that I go on fb during my lunch hour, and immediately one of my daughter’s friends begins to chat with me (on days that they don’t have school) since they see that I am online. My co-workers are amazed that 8th graders would chat with me, an adult, for a full hour on fb.
    Of course this does not replace face-to-face interaction; but it keeps the communication going, and most importantly, adapts it to the need of the new generation.

  3. Interesting. I have heard from a few parents that they enjoy communicating with their children with technology because they are “nicer.”

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