Has the internet helped or hindered parenting?
Technology has become a huge part of 21st century life, whether you are a parent or not. It seems we cannot be without our phone for any amount of time. We have access to information on the internet 24/7 but has this revolution improved parenting? Or indeed has it destroyed old-fashioned parenting of years gone by?
In my own experience I have to say I would be lost without it. The day I did my first pregnancy test, the first thing I did was run a telephone cable from the big box PC we had at a desk in our spare room. I ran the cable down the stairs and plugged it into our phone socket to go online (no such thing as wireless back then!). I was accustomed to searching online from work so once I got us plugged in and dialled up I searched “when am I due”. I quickly got a crash course in LMP’s, how pregnancy is 40 weeks (was always 9 months to me!) and how to calculate a due date. Within an hour of doing a pregnancy test I now knew the my estimated due date (EDD) was Christmas Day and that I was in fact more than 4 weeks pregnant despite only conceiving just over 2 weeks earlier. My first lessons in motherhood.
Within a matter of days I had signed up to a mum-to-be forum joining a group of other mums due the same month as me. I spent my pregnancy checking in, chatting and sharing the highs and lows of pregnancy. Granted this was before smart phones, so while I googled everything it was at my laptop at home. When I did get online I realised there was a wealth of information to be found. Some may argue too much.
Once I had my baby I spent many hours looking up information – baby poo, feeding, sleeping, vaccinations, figuring our what is normal and what is not. So many questions but answers so easily accessible. There is now a much wider net to gather information rather than just relying on family, friends and medical practitioners such as the GP or Public Health Nurse. Not that there is no longer a need for these people (please don’t rely on Google to diagnose any illness) but the internet has allowed parents, particularly first time parents, form their own views and indeed alternative approaches to various parenting tasks. The reliance on the opinion of others is not as strong as in the past which to me is a good thing.
In addition to information there is a great sense of community online. Without the internet my first maternity leave would have been much more lonely. I was the first to have a baby amongst my friends so as they all went off to work I was left home alone with baby. Within 6 weeks of my first daughter being born I set up an online group for my local area. We chatted online and also met in real life for coffee and chats. Many of them I am still in touch with and still see. I am always grateful for the chance to have met them. No doubt without the internet I still would have been forced to go and seek out friendship and meet other mums in the area but the internet made it so much easier. I can imagine in years gone by mothers, who were less confident, not getting out to meet others and in worst cases suffering for hours at home alone, perhaps even from post natal depression.
There will be many who will argue that the online communities that have developed have taken from the real life local communities. People are not talking to each other as much any more. Why go out and talk to people when you can tap away on your phone or laptop? Like everything it is about balance. Personally I try to meet friends for coffee every week or two so that I don’t fall into an online only social life.
Technology has changed how we approach the development of our kids. I have previously posted about my status as an Apple Parent. iPads and iPhones play a big part in my family life. Of course again there needs to be balance. People lament the days where kids were left to explore and play. My kids play sport, play with real life toys, jump on the trampoline, go to the playground, go on playdates and parties (endless parties!) but when they are looking some downtime I have no hesitation in letting them take out the iPad. They can be a great source of education too, with numerous apps that help with learning; shapes, colours and letters right through to much more complex lessons. They are the ultimate parenting aide. We have travelled long flights and while their hand luggage had colours and pages and soft toys and other toys, the iPad was always our saviour.
Like everything in life moderation is the key and the parenting challenge is to find that balance. My ongoing challenge is to monitor and curtail my online time and ensure I do my best to achieve the best balance for my family. The problems arise when addiction strikes and there are meltdowns because an iPad is taken away. That said if it wasn’t the iPad causing the meltdown it may be a toy that was taken away or a requested outing that couldn’t happen – kids will be kids and telling them time is up on whatever the activity is never going to go down well. No need to (always) blame technology.
The final piece of my online parenting world was, obviously, setting up this blog. Having learnt so much along my journey of motherhood I wanted there to be somewhere I could share some of the bits I’ve learnt along the way. Mothers coming up behind me can hopefully log in when they get their positive pregnancy test and easily read about the experiences that I’ve shared along the way. The blog has also included a fabulous community and indeed real life friends I hope will be in my life for many years to come.
Technology has changed how I parent. I believe it has changed how many of us parent. In my view for the better. I am a more informed parent which I believe can but help me raising my kids’. I’m also a calmer parent who gets 10 minutes downtime as my kids gather around the iPad to watch some episode of Peppa Pig or play a game.