Challenges parents face in the age of the internet: Finding the balance between online & offline
There is no denying that the world we live in has become digitalised and parenting in this age is very different from the one we grew up in. I have read many blogs and books about the use and effects of screen time in a child’s life, with most focusing on the negatives and dangers that are linked with tech use. We can’t deny it, we see tech use everywhere, you see children as young as two years old in their pram holding on to a phone watching YouTube videos or playing games.
However, I’m not completely convinced that the answer to this difficult question is to completely cut out the use of technology and only expose children to it once they fully understand it’s use. The below aims to explore both sides to the argument that I have heard parents speak of, should we be allowing children access to the internet and if so, is there such thing as a balance?
- Limited knowledge
One of the biggest disadvantages for parents is that they have grown up in an era that the use of the internet, social media or even smartphones did not exist. This causes some parents to not fully understand the dangers associated with the use of the internet. Even though parents have become more aware of the impact the internet of their children’s mental health, more still needs to be done.
- Screen Time
It’s very important to implement screen time on to your child’s devices to make sure it doesn’t have a negative effect on their wellbeing. As children get older, they become more independent and it will be harder to control their phone usage but starting early and implementing screen time allows parents to manage the time young children spend online. This way it would not interfere with their school homework, after school activities, sleep time or even family time. Most tech companies are now focused on this, with most having this feature implemented in their devices or software.
- Bullying and cyberbullying
Bullying has been around as long as we have known, but with the growth of technology we now also have cyberbullying. Both types of bullying go hand in hand because a child might be bullied at school verbally, emotionally or physically and then the bullying continues online through social media. This can affect a child and cause depression, anxiety and in extreme cases suicide. If parents detect that their child is being bullied at school or online, they should take action as this allows the parents to work with the school to prevent any extreme events. The importance here is to ensure that you have visibility of your child’s use of the net and to have open conversations with them if you think something is not right.
- Learning online & access to resources
With children growing in the era of technology and internet, schools have implemented new ways to allow children to interact and also learn online. A lot of schools both primary and secondary use online websites where they set children homework. This allows the parents to have control over what the child is actually doing online and their screen time because they will be checking over the homework.
- Group inclusion
As children are growing up, they create friendships, being online allows those friendships to develop and for your child to be in a group where they feel secure enough to express their feelings and to share their passion with each other. It allows your child to learn how to socialise and how to communicate with people and this allows them to grow confidently.
Children are more focused to learning how to be successful online, with the number of successful young youtubers increasing each year. If your child would like to be online and make money don’t brush off the idea rather sit down with them and discuss what they want to achieve and how you could help them achieve those goals. The good thing about being online and making content is that your child is not limited. A good example is the highest paid Youtuber is an 8-year-old, who records videos of himself unboxing toys and playing with them.
As mentioned, it is a difficult question to answer, finding balance is the most important factor in my opinion. The children of today will be having a career that do not currently exist, with most of them being in advanced technology. Controlled exposure is beneficial and will prepare them for a career in tech. With technology advancing so much do you really blame a young child to have their own tablet, phone, or laptop?
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1. All parents have a unique parenting style– When I first became a nanny, I did not know the extent to which the parenting styles for young infants could differ. I quickly learnt that as a nanny I needed to be able to adapt to the priorities of any given family. Whilst some parent’s top priority is for the nanny to ensure that their child is positive and happy, others require that the nanny’s role is to guide the children towards success – often through the use of stricter rules.
2. You have to take initiative every single shift – I had been looking after the children for a few months when a novel situation occurred. After school in the playground, a classmate of the young girl I nannied for was offering out chocolate cake to the class. I did not know how the parents would react to me allowing chocolate cake before dinner time (on a school day) and so I felt conflicted. I did what I thought the parents would appreciate and I kept the cake in my bag so that the parents could make the decision when they returned home. This, in turn, caused a huge tantrum at the time, however, it is never sensible to disrupt the parents trust in you just to keep the kids from shouting. Even though you may think that you have asked the parents all there is to know about the children, there will always be new situations. As a nanny it is your role to make an informed decision based on what you believe the parents would want you to do.
3. You cannot call in sick last minute – Unlike in other job roles such as bar work, calling in sick last minute is far more than a hindrance for your boss. Doing this can put the children in danger and can cause serious confusion and upset for them. Being responsible for children is one of the most important jobs you can have because the truth is, they do need you to survive. Although this can sound daunting, these responsibilities make you a more reliable person; a trait that you will then carry with you throughout the jobs you take on in your lifetime.
4. Your general knowledge will be scrutinised! – I thought I knew why things are the way they are and why words mean what they mean, however, this job taught me I knew less than I thought! Children from 3 years up question absolutely EVERYTHING. And it is your job to try and answer as accurately as you can whilst also encouraging them that being inquisitive is an amazing thing (despite how tiring it can get for you when there is always a “But WHY?” to everything you say).
5. You will have a significant impact on their lives – The infant years are crucial for the development of knowledge, personality and behavioural traits of an individual. This comes with both negative and positives. On the negative side, it means you need to seriously watch what you say and do – for example any phobias that you have must be kept hidden as best as possible to ensure that the children do not develop the same fears. On the positive side, impacting on somebody’s life in this way is extremely rewarding; you will teach them a huge amount of information that will stick with them forever.
6. Attachment can occur on both sides – For me, I enjoyed this aspect of nannying. You form a connection to the children; you enjoy their company and you get excited to see them. Therefore, calling it ‘work’ can (sometimes) feel silly since you would want to see them whether you get paid or not!
7. Looking after the child(ren) can be escapism – Due to how reliant the children are on you, there is not enough time to worry about anything else but them. You may start a shift feeling super stressed about an upcoming university assignment but by the end have forgotten you even attend university! Your attention is fully concentrated on the children and their needs.
8. It is impossible to be perfect – Depending on what the family set up is, sometimes the children’s parents may be in the room next door whilst you are nannying. I struggled with this at first because (whether they were or not) I felt that the parents were listening in to see how I was doing. Whilst the children were being well behaved this was not a problem – it was when they began misbehaving that my worries began. I did not want to be too strict also I did not want to be too lenient. I didn’t want the parents to think I was too harsh on the children but at the same time, I didn’t want to make it seem that I let them get away with anything. With time, through observing how the parents reacted to bad behaviour as well as becoming more comfortable with the whole family, I learnt to have confidence in my response to any behaviour.
9. They grow up – FAST!. – When I started, I would push the 2-year-old boy home from school in the buggy whilst his 4-year-old sister would scoot by the side of us. One year later and they were both biking back from school. With so many roads between the school and home, I had to be fully on the ball to ensure that both children (going at different speeds) were safe. The point here is that you need to be able to support and adjust to the children’s development – even when it makes your life more difficult.
10. The job is surprisingly simple – Despite on the surface being both physically and emotionally draining, at its core being a nanny is surprisingly simple. You need to keep the children alive. It sounds slightly abrupt, however, if you are keeping the children safe from danger, if you are feeding, changing and washing them as frequently as they require and finally if you are teaching them why all of these things are necessary for them to survive, then you are doing just fine!
By Madeleine P – Nanny for over 4 years