Technology and children

By: Cris Evert B. Lato-Ruffolo - CDN Digital | December 07,2019 - 07:24 AM

One of my close friends called me on a busy Friday evening to tell me that she was “very disturbed.”

She was having dinner with her six-year-old daughter when she asked, out of the blue, what the little girl wanted to become in the future. 

“I want to be a vlogger Mom,” was the response from her first grader. 

She was expecting her to say “lawyer” or “teacher” or “doctor.” 

“My girl wants to be a vlogger! Is that even a career?” she asked with her panic level clearly at 99.9 percent. 

This is not the first time I heard stories about children wanting to embrace a future that is related to social media and online digital platforms. Children also want to be an influencer, an e-gamer, and a travel blogger. Simply put, these are jobs that children have been seeing on social media that they think are fun and cool. 

Are the days of “When I grow up, I want to be a teacher!” already gone? Is our society going to hear more screams from my friend because her child wants to be a vlogger? 

A session during the Leadership and Education Action for Development (LEAD) Summit last Thursday, December 5, tackled this issue quite extensively. 

The two-day summit, which was organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi) gathered more than 200 leaders from the public education sector, local school boards, local schools governing councils as well as experts and practitioners in the fields of education, learning and development and human resource recruit from key industries. 

The room was full of teachers and educators who were having lively and insightful conversations on how to achieve education and leadership outcomes. The summit was designed for the participants to map out initiatives and efforts to promote better collaboration and synergy between and among sectors and industries. 

The session on “Industry Essentials and Trends in Learning and Leaders” made me take notes vigorously because the discussion went from the essential skills and values of graduates that are needed in real-world employment to finding the sweet spot in dealing with children’s use of technology. 

The panel was composed of individuals who are well respected in their fields. More importantly, they are also parents facing challenges on how to deal with their children’s technology usage. 

Moderator Marie Sol Gonzalvo of Rafi’s Kool Adventure Camp (KAC) was right when she said that any discussion on technology can turn  into a parenting session because parents nowadays are facing technology-driven challenges, which can affect both their relationship with their children and the future careers of their “little ones.”

I went home on the first day with a couple of reminders and tips on how to discuss technology use with your children.

Understand technology

Jovenir Bataican, managing consultant of IdeaCentral, says it is important for parents to understand technology. There is really no shortcut in understanding technology. As a parent, you have to study it and immerse in it so you can relate to them. If there is a need for digital conversations, which means communicating with your children via Facebook messenger, then do it. 

Cathleen Ramona Wilson, co-founder of For The Women Foundation, says parents will not be able to stop children’s usage of technology because this generation will be drawn to it constantly. Prohibiting usage or dismissing technology all together will not open the table for conversations between parent and child. 

Have a two-way discussion on limiting technology usage 

Michael Godinez, a human resource practitioner, says talking to children about setting a limit to technology use is a challenging task as the moment when you talk to your child about sex. 

“Parenting is always evolving. There is no book that tells you what to do,” says Godinez. 

Godinez says it is a tricky situation when a parent talks to the child about limiting technology or social media use when the child often sees the parent using his laptop or phone. 

What to do? Modelling. The kind that does not involve a ramp. If it’s dinner time, then you might want to follow the no-cellphone rule so everyone is focused on the meal and the family discussion. 

Be present

Is it wrong for children to want to be a vlogger or an e-gamer? My answer is no. Our children can be anything and anyone they want to be. Should we just allow them to pursue careers that we do not like for them? This is a difficult question that requires reflection. But it has been proven that children are the happiest and most successful when they are given the freedom to choose and pursue their passions. A vlogger is not exactly what you have in mind as a career for your six-year-old but respect the choice. Guide her through the process. Be very present when you discuss social media and technology to her. Sure, a lot can change in the years in between six and 18 and this is the reason why we have to work double time in inspiring and motivating them to become the best versions of themselves as they learn about the values of hard work, perseverance and honesty, which do not come easy in any career that a person chooses to pursue. 

Bill Gates, tech billionaire, philanthropist, co-founder of Microsoft, was telling the truth when he was quoted saying, “Technology is just a tool in terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them. The teacher is the most important.”

Parents are often the children’s first teachers. Let us do our job in becoming the best ones to them. 

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