Would you let a stranger spend several hours with your child, communicating values, distracting them from homework, creating separation and distance from family? “No”, you say? Well, there is a stranger lurking around in the shadows of your home that is influencing, guiding, and directing your child’s attention away from you. The danger that is enticing your child is social media, and its presence is growing rapidly. Children now spend, on average, eight and ½ hours a day exposed to electronic forms of media. Their connection to this influence includes TV, mobile phones, computers, video games, and other electronic devices.
The increasing attention towards social media has played a significant role in hampering study and playtime. Children are more enthralled by what they see on the internet, which caters to their personal needs and desires. This often drives them away from their textbooks and further towards the TV or computer as it pleases them more. Even we, as individuals, are hooked onto the phenomenon. So, is it something that undermines your relationship with your kids? Do social media actually enhance the parent/child bond?
- Disconnect to Connect
It’s real easy to say this real-time, always-connected world creates a culture of people with their faces buried in mobile devices, even in the middle of real-world interactions. They, safe to say, are disconnected from the real world to connect on the virtual world. This disconnect creates gaps in a parent-child relationship as children don’t bother to address their problems and parents are slowly losing touch with what is happening in their child’s life.
- An engaging opportunity
Despite being a bane in hindering personal relationships, social media is also an opportunity for parents to connect further with their children. They can keep an eye on what their child is up to and can also learn more about their interests. But, the fact that parents have to take social media’s help to learn more about their children is a little disheartening. But in the millennial age, times are changing and the modes of communication are changing with it.
- Parental perspective
From the perspective of a parent, some of them enjoyed playing in the social media space but not everyone. As expected, it is a mixed bag of positives and negatives. One interesting trend was the divide between those with younger kids and those with older ones. Those with younger children were more torn on the issue. For them, it was a blend of social media causing problems and creating opportunities. The ones with older children were almost all positive on it being a way to connect with their kids
- Younger Kids need attention
The main issue with parents of younger children is the time social media takes away from their kids. It hinders the relationship because social media can be so addictive and young children find it more appealing than older ones. They find more games to play and video to watch, which leads them to disconnect from their parents and grow away from them while finding comfort in something else. This is mostly because children need attention and more often than not, parents don’t give them enough attention due to work and several other factors.
- Keeping pace with older kids
In almost all cases, the parents of teens and young adults find that social media enhanced their relationship. It gives them a way to keep in touch with on-the-go, hyper-connected kids. It also gives parents a way to keep tabs on their children’s activities. Parents try to find a sense of relief in knowing what their kids are up to and social media is a great enabler for this.
Yet another concern is a probable decline in time spent by a parent and child together. While the digital tools indeed allow the possibility of better communication between the parent and the child, they must put in more conscious effort to spend more time together, either using the digital tools, or excluding them in order to keep the relationship smooth and updated. It is undeniable that in terms of parenting and parent-child relationships, the digital era is vastly different from the one that preceded it, but it must also be acknowledged that digital tools have indeed benefitted parenting in its own way. Parents, themselves, are different today and as it has always been the case, they have to adapt and mesh their parenting attitudes and activities with the digitally rich environment that their children are born into. It takes conscious effort and constant course correction to bypass the pitfalls of digital tools and enhance the riches that these tools bring into the parent-child bond.