In today’s fast paced world, we are relying on technology to replace some of the functions that we used to carry out in our everyday lives.

This includes parenting. In the past, we have discussed the good and bad merits of technology playing an increasing role in your children’s lives; this debate will never go away and can only be built on.

I recently read an interesting article on the South African edition of the Huffington Post which discussed the subject in a bit more detail.

The article said that technology cannot replace your role as a parent. While it plays a significant role in our everyday lives and makes life a lot easier, parents should carefully consider the negative impact tech devices can have on a child’s overall development.

That’s the view of Toy Kingdom’s creative parenting expert Nikki Bush who spoke to the Huffington Post.

“Yes, technology is part of the fabric of our lives. But we need to curb the use of tech devices in a child’s routine, and find that middle ground when it comes to screen time. This is crucial for a child’s developmental needs,” Bush says.

For personal development they need to engage with real people on real things and not just the virtual world as seen on screen.

The article adds that child obesity and diabetes have become national epidemics in some countries, causally related to technology overuse. Diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), coordination disorder, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders have also all been associated with technology overuse.

“Children are increasingly viewing the world from a screen, but for personal development they need to engage with real people on real things and not just the virtual world as seen on screen. Moderation between on-screen and off-screen is so important.” she says.

As a babysitter

The article points out that Bush says using a tech device as a babysitter for children is a big no-no. She says children enjoy interaction with their parents, and when mum and dad are not around, an emotional void that a screen cannot fill occurs.

“A laptop or cellphone is no substitute for mum and dad. Children need yes or no answers, and they need engagement. When sidelined by a device, they don’t get the answers they need, and that’s problematic for them.”

She also cautions parents to limit technology where applicable, as it can be quite addictive. It stimulates the secretion of chemicals from the pleasure centre of the brain.

As a disciplinarian

The article adds that developing self-regulation and self-discipline are two of life’s fundamentals, and Bush encourages parents to avoid using a handheld device or computer as an emotional crutch.

“We should not be using a cellphone as the drawcard to get our children to sleep, or even to eat. Often parents indicate that children can’t do anything without the device and as parents, we need to work on changing that,” Bush adds.

As a real-life experience replacer

The article points out that technology can rob children from real-life experiences essential for their development. According to Bush, children learn best through concrete learning experiences with real people and real toys in real time.

“These experiences give our children those multisensory experiences of the world, and while technology has so much to offer, we need to ensure that the foundation necessary for their development is set first,” Bush says.

Further, too much time spent watching movies on the laptop, or playing video games on the tablet, stunts a child’s social skills and ability to interact with friends, family members and even their teachers.

Do we have a complete view?

Bearing the above information in mind, can we make an educated decision on the role technology plays in parenting?

An article on points out that numerous studies have shown that parental involvement in a child’s education can make a huge difference between mediocrity and excellence. Parents providing educational activities over the summer months give their kids a boost, so they return to school in the autumn more prepared to learn than children who were left to their own devices (quite literally, in many cases).

High levels of achievements

The article points out that the greater the involvement level of parents with their children’s school activities in general, from homework to extra-curricular events, the higher the children’s level of achievement. Research by the University of Exeter argues that this is more important than the overall quality of the school attended. Increasingly, technology plays a key role in this involvement.

The article adds that one school that’s doing it’s part to embrace digital change is the Waid Academy in Fife, Scotland. Waid enrolls just under 700 pupils and sits at the heart of a close-knit community. Sabrina Ferguson, depute head teacher at Waid, joined the school in 2016 with the remit to transform it into a technology-enhanced environment. This involved integrating with Glow, Scotland’s digital learning platform, Microsoft Office, and developing training on interactive displays provided by SMART Technologies.

Educating all

The article points out that Ferguson’s three-pronged approach not only consisted of educating teachers and pupils, but parents, too. “We ran a session for parents on what we’re doing within the school, how we’re enhancing digital literacy and how we’re developing different skills for digital innovation,” Ferguson explained. “And also we wanted to offer them an opportunity to speak to the police about COP (Child Online Protection), and how to keep children safe online, as a result of all of this new advanced technology here, but also the fact that the pupils are much more engaged with technology at home and within school.”

The article adds that thanks to technology, what goes on in the classroom no longer stays entirely in the classroom. With cloud-based online systems, parents can check what homework their offspring have been set, keep tabs on their grades and projected performance, and even gain access to assignments should the child need help completing them.

It is important to note that the debate doesn’t end here, this is merely new information in an ever growing debate.