Digital Parenting and Divide

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“No screentime!” the kasambahay of our two-year-old neighbor screeched early morning Wednesday, awakening me from a deep slumber. It was followed by a brief discussion between the other adults in the household, the parents of the child, who supported the no screentime mode advice. The kasambahay would later explain to the wailing child that this means a NO on the use of television and other gadgets.

I wouldn’t know if the guideline would cover the whole day when parents are out of the home to work but at least, and it is good to know that the initiative to limit the use of these gadgets has started. In most households, however, gadgets and television have overtaken interaction between parents and child. In many ways, it has become a replacement for the real work of being fully present.

Adults, with the mundane tasks and responsibilities on their shoulder, seem to regale on the presence of technology to keep their children still if only to allow them to focus on their work within the home and to somehow manage the child’s curiosity and naughtiness.

The neighbor’s discussion brought me back to last week’s forum on Digital Parenting where Ms. Thelma Villamorel of the Cyber Security Bureau of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) shared the initiative to educate the public on the responsible use of technology and on digital citizenship.

It was interesting how the audience and even other panel members to the forum resonate with the concern on how to handle the risks and hazard of leaving children alone to navigate the digital world and of the urgent need of focusing on the child’s real need for emotional stability and connection in a wireless setting, with the full mindfulness of an adult.

Where children run the risk of overexposure, inactivity and sleep disorders, technology has increasingly become a babysitter for children in a world where adults may not only have less patience for children’s curious wonder and physical energy but are also caught up in their own world.

After all, there are tasks to do and responsibilities fall heavily on the shoulder of many of us who are also expected to raise and nurture fragile human beings. They creep not only in our daily lives within our workstation but also home, on a supposedly safe haven for deep, meaningful interaction and connection with those who matter the most in our lives.

With the presence of digital technology in the homefront, it would seem impossible to control and monitor 24/7 access and use of the internet. There are certain guides on how to limit screen time, and some, like myself, even block some sites which I perceived to be harmful while my children were growing up.  However, everybody knows that the risk is there waiting for that small window where adults would be distracted to do the real work of being fully there with the children.

The challenge lies in educating and reaching out not only to parents but also to guardians, caregivers and other adults in the household to respond to the risk of children’s online exposure. On the other hand, part of raising the consciousness of children and youth on how to manage their time and on responsible computer use is on allowing them to explore, fail at times and have that constant dialogue with responsible adults on the matter.

Nobody could run away from the clutches of a more wired world, with all of the hazards that it may pose to girls, women, and boys. The agency of individuals to revert these red signals could only be as effective as the availability of mechanism, including policies that may be drafted in the future.

Putting this out for further discussion is a crucial step to enable other stakeholders to come together and improve not only on child protection but also take part in responding to the challenges on age-specific access to relevant information, social inclusion and the digital gap that persist. Email comments to roledan@gmail.com

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