Parenting Solo: Techno Babies

Let’s face it parents, we are raising a generation of addicts – media addicts. Children these days are feed a steady diet of technology basically from the womb. I read a recent study by the Kaiser Family foundation that found children between 8 and 18 use entertainment media more than 7 1/2 hours a day. And because of media multi-tasking they actually cram more than 10 hours of usage in to that 7 ½ hours. And that does not include the hour and a half they usually spend texting on a daily basis. Reading that made me numb. I had been contributing to the delinquency of my minor.

Because of pesky child labor laws, children are largely unemployed. This means that any electronic device they own comes from some well meaning but misguided adult. But giving our offspring these nifty little devices is causing them to slip into an alternate universe. We are creating our own version of the Matrix, plugging them into the machines and then complaining about it.

I have to constantly extract the ear buds growing out of my daughter’s ears when I am trying to hold a conversation with her in the car. Now I bought the MP3 player she’s listening to. I paid for the songs she downloaded. Who is really to blame for her 24 hour diet of technology? The more I want the point the finger at big brother the more he points it back at me.

Like many parents, I started my baby off with the electronic “learning toys” and “educational videos” with the intention of helping her with her development. Truthfully, I was just as fascinated with the toys as she was. Sometimes they even served as electronic babysitters while I tried to finish dinner or talk on the phone for a moment. Looking back, I’m not proud of those moments but it seemed harmless at the time.

As she grew, so did her dependence on electronics. Well we really developed our habit together. My ex-husband and I were hooked on the latest gadgets too and we enjoyed doting on our only child. We were not bad parents, just naïve to what we were doing. Like so many parents caught up in the thrill of riding the wave of progress, we were unaware of what effects these devices could have.

The slippery slope is that technology is not bad when used correctly and in moderation. The challenge is usually the moderation. To children who communicate better through text than speech and Face book than face to face, our ways of interacting seem obsolete.

Still we have the power to put the brakes on the machines. One study shows that when parents set any limits at all on how much media their child consumes they can shave up to 3 hours off that 7 ½ hour daily average.

Otherwise the kids will gorge themselves on their devices. I mean honestly, watching television while you listen to music and play a video game? Is it any wonder why their brains are scrambled eggs?

They are already developing new types of injuries, too. Weird medical conditions like texter’s thumb, cell phone ear and keyboard hangnail. Studies can’t draw a definitive link between low grades and poor behavior and the heavy use of media. Any parent of a grumpy, withdrawn teen could easily make the connection.

Kids hide in their rooms and use their machines. I have done a late night bed check only to find my child sending and receiving text messages at one and two o’clock in the morning. No wonder these kids fall asleep in class! Like a good warden, I confiscate the contraband, but it just leaves me scratching my head.

What’s going to happen to these kids when they grow up and we aren’t around to help regulate the machines? And oh what about my poor grand children – will they be part robot? It is a brave new world indeed.