We certainly do live in paradoxical times.

May 16, 2016

We monitor the movies our children watch, yet we give them 3G activated smartphones!

We monitor the parties our children attend, yet we release them to the world of Facebook, Twitter and chat rooms!

We set family viewing on all our DSTV decoders, yet we give our children iPads, tablets, computers and laptops!

I remember receiving my first cell phone, probably when I was twice the age of our Grade 6 boys and girls now – and yes, that was only nineteen years ago!  At that time it really was the proverbial brick.  Some of you might remember that attractive black Motorola with retractable aerial and two batteries – the thin guy that lasted about an hour, and the fat one that gave you at least 90 minutes… after a 12 hour charge!  All this phone could do was, well, just that, phone someone!  Boy have things changed, and I am now the proud owner of an iPhone 6S – pretty much a hand held PC!

So, how does this affect us and modern parenting?

We are faced with new challenges today that our parents never faced, so how can we ask them for council?  Can we apply the same rules of engagement as our parents used?

Peter Drucker, a writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist” says, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence, is not turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic”.  Warren Buffett, an American investor, industrialist and philanthropist, adds that “When the tide of growth goes out, you can see who has been swimming naked”.  The problem with this is that your naked picture may well end up on the web!

So, how do we as parents try to control this cyber space highway from hijacking us and our children?

  • Only allow our children to have phones without Whatsapp, iMessage etc. or 3G applications.
  • Do not give your children a phone or laptop at all.
  • Make sure the first friend they invite on Facebook is you, with full access to their profile.
  • Only allow your children access to the net in your presence, in a communal space in the home.
  • Do not allow devices in their bedrooms
  • Disable wireless connectivity on their laptops or any handheld devices – they will show you how to do it!

 (By the way, PSP’s, Nintendos, iPods etc.  Can all access the web.)

  • Randomly check the search history on their devices – again they will show you how to!
  • Check their galleries from time to time (they will give you the passwords, of course).
  • Check the history of Google searches (fair chance they would have already been cleared or they have discovered private/incognito browsing…).
  • Or we could lock up our children in their comfy rooms with no TV’s or technology and throw away the key!

Let’s be honest. This simply isn’t realistic. I truly believe that we need to address these challenges ahead in a proactive manner, and arm our children with the skills they require in order to protect them from this world of information overload.  Like many of the problems we face today, there is no simple or single solution.  We need to take a multi-facetted approach aiming to serve the same purpose.  What this approach may be, I think is impossible to determine. The true challenge we face is to formulate a strategy that best serves our individual children.

American developmental psychologist, Howard Gardener’s outlines “5 minds for the future”:

  1. Disciplined
  2. Synthesizing
  3. Creative
  4. Respectful
  5. Ethical

When considering these “5 minds for the future”, it pleases me that my sons have attended independent schools, where the core values of the schools are deeply engrained in their educational philosophy.  It also further pleases me that we are mindful of the challenges technology has to bring, yet we have the courage to further develop Information Technology in schools for the benefit of our children.

An individual’s values and ethics are consistent and it is these we should return to during these times of change and paradoxes.  This is something we can remember from our own parents and can be witnessed on a daily basis through the good will of others.  Our values, therefore, need to become our compass and as parents, surely our greatest responsibility is to ensure our children’s values are set as firmly as possible in order to give them the best start we can!

If any of this sets an ounce of fear in you, please do as I do, and think what our children will be dealing with one day when they have their own!

Alex Hall