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Article :: Creating a common technological platform promoting parent-child interaction

Category: Technology
By: Kathleen Jagarnath

Creating a common technological platform promoting parent-child interaction

We live in an age where modern technology is woven into the fabric of our lives. The way we communicate, shop, bank and learn have transformed into convenient and efficient processes. A comparison can be drawn between modern technology and allopathic medication. Modern technology minimizes delays and makes many life transactions easier by the click of a mouse. Similarly, allopathic medication brings relief to symptoms. Both come with undesirable side effects. While the side effects of the medication are often available in small print and through direct experience, the drawbacks of technology are intangible and thus makes it more dangerous.

So what are these scary unknown side effects of modern technology that remain unknown? At first glance, it is not obvious because of the benefits and lifestyle adaptations that we as a society enjoy and make respectively. People spend more time on their smart devices (be it a phone or tablet) chatting, gaming and surfing the internet. Data bundles, mobile phone contracts and internet connections enjoy the status of having become utility expenses and are in no way luxuries. Everyone needs fuel to get on the internet highway, the road where everyone and everything can be found.

Take a moment to reflect on which aspect of life has taken a knock: our personal social interactions. Social cues, etiquette and communication have taken a nosedive. Technology has brought many advantages in how we live, but if not controlled, can bring in isolation and create a dysfunctional society.  Children of this digital age spend more time sitting in front of the television or gaming. Play, an essential part of childhood development which involved physical activities and social exchanges in the not- so- distant past, has been reduced to a virtual reality of sitting and staring at a screen.  People don’t communicate anymore. Being ignored is not rude or intentional, it’s just that your potential communication partner- be it your parent, partner or child is deeply engrossed. Perhaps you are too and nobody is really paying attention to the people and surroundings. Everybody is chatting in silence as they rapidly text to friends giving an update on their lives. They are not living life- just reporting it!

Parents are the primary teachers and caregivers of their children. It is important that this mutual loving and nurturing relationship is preserved and enhanced. Parents are the first language and social models to their children. They set a critical foundation for developing values, beliefs and imposing discipline. Many people experience challenges, insecurities and psychological barriers that stem from unsavory childhood experiences. These experiences are not just restricted to abuse, but neglect and goes beyond making sure basic needs are met. Children raised in an intact family unit with consistent routine, discipline and active parent involvement, definitely have a head start in becoming healthy, balanced and successful adults.

So what steps can be taken to ensure that we are not exposed to the dangerous side effects of technology. The first and most critical step is awareness. When we are consciously aware of the risks and pitfalls, we automatically look at ways to avert them. Some solutions that have been proposed are having time away from using technology. However, is it really a solution or is everyone impatient and grumpy while waiting for the curfew to lift?

A niche can be filled: Opportunities to fill this unmet need of promoting quality interactions between parents and their children. The movie industry has done this with much success. Many parents are just as enthusiastic to watch the next animation big-screen hit because they can extract something too. While the kids bask in the animated visuals and obvious humor, a strategic plot with good quality dialogue and abstract humor keep adults just as entertained.

The gaming industry is a billion-dollar industry and continues growing. Creating interactive games that facilitate both parents and their children playing together is a great place to start. The games must incorporate elements of developing and extending children’s language and conceptual skills. Social games which allow parents to teach and children to learn socially acceptable behavior is invaluable. Games can be graded where parents and children are fellow competitors. What a fabulous opportunity to level the playing field and relive childhood and facilitate parent-child bonding by playing with a purpose!

The traditional bed time story which fosters quality parent-child time can be revved up to an electronic child-friendly interactive format which embraces the positives of technology. The use of talking three dimensional characters is bound to take story time to a whole new level.  A timer can be set so after a specified time (decided on by the parents and/or child) the characters say goodnight and the story resumes the next evening! While some may argue that this method of story time is bound to keep children excited and awake for longer, consider the positives: technology used in a positive way in promoting parent-child interaction. Once the novelty wears down, levels of excitement decrease and this becomes part of a routine.

Technology can even allow for both parents and children to become the original story tellers. Templates can be created so that both youngsters and parents can design their own stories to share. Many times children are reluctant to share their thoughts, fears and experiences directly and talking through a story-like medium would allow them the chance to express themselves. Children often misunderstand discipline imposed on them by their parents. Sometimes they are too emotionally stressed to learn the lesson of making a bad choice. This would be the ideal platform for parents to generate a story using characters to teach the lesson they were trying to teach in real life.

Excluding technology from promoting quality personal relationships with our children is not feasible in the long-term. We all have come to depend on modern technology in how we live our lives. The most practical way forward is to incorporate technology in extending and refining our interactions. Taking these proactive steps would ensure continued convenience in our lives and most importantly taking responsibility for shaping the future generations successfully.







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