What does it mean to be a switched-on family?

I am not ashamed to say that my parenting actively integrates the use of technology into our daily lives. In fact, I would even go so far to say that if it didn’t, I don’t think I’d be the parent I am today. Reading this piece had me nodding furiously at my desk, especially when the report said:

“…digital technology is offering a whole host of brand-new ways to bring families and friends closer together for happier relationships.”

I can only agree with this statement, and I am very sure that there are other families who do too. We are a family of what some people would’ve once called “computer nerds”. Growing up, I played LAN games and we were the first home in our street to get the great and sparkly Internet, brought to us via a little US Robotics modem. Computers, screens and technology have been a part of my family’s life from the moment we got a little monochrome monitor so really, this is how it was always going to be. My child has been exposed to technology from the moment she was born and I encourage her to explore the world through the devices she has at her disposal.

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A standard evening’s entertainment for our family.

 

Why am I so hellbent on her immersing herself in this digital world? I’ve had people raise their eyebrows at me over it, but it comes down to one simple thing, that I come back to again and again…

Digital literacy is – to us – just as important as learning to read.

Bear in mind, please, that I’m a writer and a lover of literature too, so I would never teach my child to eschew the worn pages of an age-appropriate novel and throw herself headfirst and only into a world of flashy whizzpops and sparkly games. I don’t – she has a balanced approach to both of them, and is more likely to choose a book over a screen in the evenings after school.

But, because we are a ‘switched on’ family who is almost constantly online, it’s created an interesting avenue of communication for us. We explore technology together and we enjoy our devices as a unit, not separately. So, no, that does not mean I’m the mom at the park sitting on the sidelines whilst her kid swings from the jungle bars, seemingly unsupervised (more on that one day…by the way, read this until I get to writing that).

I am, however, the mom who sits next to her kid, both of us with tablets on our laps, as we scroll through YouTube to laugh over the latest Katy Perry video, or do a quick search to find out exactly which haircut we should go for next. I am the mom who sits next to her kid as she explores the world through her device, searches for new apps to download and I do a few emails and check social media. If my daughter’s feeling like a giggle, she’ll email me as I’m doing that, just so she can see that “Oh I have email!” expression on my face, and I’ll grin as I realise it’s from her. Those emails are treasures, because she feels empowered to communicate with me through a medium that is not face-to-face. As she grows up, and her life becomes more socially-driven, she and I will lean on those communication channels more and more. Her confidence in using them now, counts.

And when bedtime comes, we put our devices away, cuddle up for a chapter of the book she’s got from the library and kiss her face a thousand times before she drifts off to sleep.

You see folks, just because you’re a switched on family, does not mean you’re switched off from your kids.

Cath Jenkin

As a mom, Cath raises her daughter with a strong focus on technology, as she believes that digital literacy is as important as learning to read. With a long history of creating content for online and print publications, and in particular as a parenting columnist, Cath brings her curious mind... Read more

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