Is Technology Making Us Better Parents?
Or more paranoid parents who use technology as a way feeling like we have control?
Wow, Mom, I don’t know how you even LIVED back then!
My children say this to me as though I was a pioneer barely eeking out an existence, slaughtering livestock and washing my clothes down at the river. When, in fact, I am merely telling them that when I was their age we had to watch television live. With the commercials. On one of the three channels that we were able to get, after we moved the tinfoil covered rabbit ears around. And we had to get up and walk across the room to the tv to change the channel.
Rabbit ears? That is what we called the antennas that stuck out of the tv.
Tinfoil? Yeah, I’m not sure it really did anything.
Then they ask me about all the other things that I didn’t have growing up:
DVDs? No. No VHS either. (What’s that, the youngest of my children want to know.)
Nor did we have cordless phones.
Yes, the phone was attached to the wall.
No, you could not text from it.
iPods? No. We had cassette tapes. Their confused faces tell me I have to elaborate.
They were before CDs.
We had to make plans BEFORE we went out for the night.
They look at me the same way that I remember looking at my mother when she would tell me how they sat around listening to shows on the radio. Awww, what a quaint and simple time. Clearly that was why she didn’t get me. It would take me twenty years to realize the reason she didn’t understand me was because I was a teenager, no one understands them.
I know how life has changed from the perspective of being a kid. I can see it clearly with my own children who are constantly plugged into their friends. The children of today know nothing else. But what about from the perspective of the parent? Have we become better parents? Has having technology and information at our fingertips made us better parents?
The microwave, infinite television stations, the DVR, cellphones… all of these things have made life easier, at a price. It is hard to tell exactly what that price is, but one thing I think is that it has made us impatient. It has made us look for a quick fix. Sending a text message is much quicker than a phone call or email and usually receives an immediate reply.
Last week I went to the 6th grade orientation at the middle school. One of the things the principal discussed was cell phone usage. They changed the rules so that kids may use their phones for texting and calls during their lunch period. She said that if you needed to talk to your child that was the time to call them. Parents around me murmured how great it was to be able to connect with your kid during the day. I, on the other hand, thought it was not so great. For six hours a day I think you can let your middle school aged children be out from under your thumb. The needing to get in touch with them because it is an emergency argument doesn’t hold water either because for most of the day their phones need to be turned off. And what sort of emergency would be appropriate to call your middle schooler and tell them about in the middle of the school day anyway.
Only my highschool aged children have their own phones. It was a rite of passage. My fourth and sixth grade sons tell me that they are the ONLY kids in their classes without a phone of their own. While I doubt that they are the only ones, they are certainly in the minority. Who exactly are they calling? I ask my sons this and they have no answer. But I know the answer, they are calling their mothers. They talk enough to me in person, I don’t want them calling me on the phone too.
Most of the parents I know who have given their children cell phones say that it is so they can “track them down” at all times. I don’t really feel the need to do that either. Something which probably makes me sound like a bad mother in some social circles.
At the church my children attend they are scanned in with a little bar code. It seems excessive to me. But it is hard to argue against the “safety” argument, without seeming to be uncaring. No one can kidnap them from the church classroom.
At the highschool I had to show my driver’s license to check my teenage son out of school in an elaborate process. I thought it was to prove I was his parent, but no, the office worker told me it was to run the driver’s license against a sexual offender database and make sure no child is released to a sex offender. Has this been a problem I wondered? No, they are just being proactive.
Have these things made any difference in the safety of our children?
Recently, I was looking at my phone plan and I realized that there is tracking device that can be added to our phones. It would give me the exact location of the phone’s whereabouts, and presumably the person to whom the phone belongs. I would think that most people are getting this tracking device for their children. But, why? Is it because you are worried that your child is going to be kidnapped on their way home from school? Something which is highly unlikely, though if you watch shows like Dateline or Nancy Grace you would think they were daily occurrences. Is it because you think your kid is going somewhere they are not supposed to be going? Which really is a different issue that won’t be solved with a GPS tracking device in their phone.
We have the illusion of control and the peace of mind that comes with that. We feel like we have covered every “what if” or “better safe than sorry” scenario. But are we better parents? Or the same old parents with a heaping of guilt added to the top?