I am currently attracting more sulky looks than usual in my house. They are coming from my 12-year-old son, who feels that my level of strictness has reached stratospheric heights, and that I am in risk of damaging our relationship permanently.
Of course I am not alone in this – every parent the world over would sympathise – but whilst my son has always accepted most boundaries with resigned equanimity, it is my new ‘Technology Rules’ that are causing the strop (which of course, merely serves to mitigate my actions).
The problem is that while I am a big fan of technology, fiercely defending it against those who declare that it destroys family life, social skills and kids’ brains (not if it’s employed sensibly and productively), I can’t keep ignoring the studies which point to the dreaded possibility of addiction and, I hate to say it, what look like the early warning signs in my son (ref. the excessive strop).
When he started secondary school recently, I finally allowed him to join Facebook. This really did help the transition (he was more worried about losing touch with his old friends than he was about making new ones), but he began feverishly logging on every morning after a rushed breakfast. Playing his pals on the PSP every night was also becoming more important than his homework. That is, until the ‘Technology Rules’…
What I would really appreciate is some help in all this – and I’m not talking just PHSE classes in school or government guidelines which are frustratingly and peculiarly absent in spite of expert pressure to introduce them.
No, I’m referring to brand involvement. My research shows that not one of the gaming or social media brands is taking the opportunity to engage with kids or parents about this. No social networking sites or games producers are addressing this issue in their CSR plans. Nor are they producing content to help kids and parents make sensible choices.
This is more than an obligation – it’s a clear opportunity which has already been harnessed by snack and fast food companies to great applaud for years. It’s called transparency and shows a level of empathy and humility parents respond to.
Crucially, it helps educate kids not yet tainted with commercial cynicism to make healthy choices independent of their parents’ nagging.
Is it really such a huge risk for technology companies to admit and take some responsibility for what appears to be adversely affecting almost every family I know?
How risky is it to ignore?