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21st Century Parenting

by Laura of "J, T and Theo B."
Photo by: Shutterstock

My two older sons’ school hosted a technology education seminar a few months ago. A presenter held up an iPad and said, “This is the slowest, clunkiest piece of technology your kids will ever know.” As someone who mourned the demise of the top-loading VCR, this remark hit home. Even our three year old knows the basics of the iPad. And he should. We all should.

A few months ago, an article was floating around about the Waldorf School’s choice to completely eschew the use of technology in their classrooms. To be fair, this is not new; Waldorf pedagogy has always discouraged the use of computers, televisions and other technological gadgets – both in the classroom and their students’ homes. The article managed to magnify the polarizing–and personal–issue of technology usage, not because of the atypical educational model utilized in Waldorf programs, but because of the judgmental, often pompous remarks people wrote in response to their ‘all-or-nothing’ technology approach. Talk about tossing another log on the “mommy-wars” fire!

My children all know how to use a computer, an iPad, and even a Nook. We’ve told our older sons that they are responsible for monitoring the sites they visit, and if they accidentally go to one that is inappropriate, they better leave it ASAP. (Of course, we monitor them, too. We just make sure to give them some growing space.)

They are still young enough that they mostly visit the math website promoted by their school, or watch Muppet videos on YouTube. However, one day, they are going to want their own Facebook accounts. One day, they will be Twittering along with everyone else. Well… almost everyone else.

I have several real-life friends who have an almost Puritanical stance against joining Facebook or Twitter. Whether their decisions are based on the fear of an invasion of personal privacy, or on a general distrust of the Internet, I’ll never know. Maybe they innately understand what a time-sucker it is and are fighting the good fight against procrastination, or maybe they just don’t want to invest the brain cells needed to navigate privacy settings and cherry-pick through friend requests. Regardless, their comments when the discussion comes up are always the same: I hate Facebook. I will NEVER get on it.

Is this attitude stoic, or merely stubborn?

As with most anything, I believe that moderation is the key, but the gap between the technology teetotalers and the other side is a huge, gaping one. And let’s face it, our society has drunk the technology Kool-Aid, and is not going back. Using a computer is no longer a luxury; it’s a requirement. So don’t we owe it to our children to be at least conversant, if not fluent, in the venues that will serve as their future conduits of information?

Perhaps it’s my own form of ‘helicopter parenting.” I want to know not only what my sons are doing, but how they are doing it. At least for as long as they’ll allow me this inclusion. I want to be able to answer their questions, and demonstrate what one should and should not put on the Internet. And if that means bringing myself up to speed on social media networking systems, even those I view as nebulous at best, then so be it.

So I signed up for a Twitter account. It’s certainly been a learning process, what with those hash tags, abbreviations and all. There’s no telling how long Twitter will be relevant, how long it will take until it gets reclassified as “Old School” and shelved. Something better will always come along. And I don’t want to become the technological equivalent of my grandparents; hopelessly devoted to their 78rpm records and befuddled by any electronic gizmo snazzier than an adding machine. There isn’t room for that naivete’ in today’s society.

While I may question the relevance and functionality of sites such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s clear that today’s generation does not. So watch out, Twitterers, because Mama’s ditching the horse and buggy for something a bit more modern, and slowly merging onto the information super highway. I won’t let myself get this far behind on the learning curve again.

#parentinginthe21stcentury

Laura Bedingfield Herakovich has taught school, practiced law, and birthed three boys, but – alas – still hasn’t quite figured out Twitter. Read more of her work on her blog, J, T and Theo B and Mamas Against Drama.

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