Raising Children In An Age Of Instant Gratification

Category Technology

Most parents these days are concerned about the effects that technology will have their children. Electronic producers are targeting their products to younger and younger audiences, so that children are more accustomed to interacting with their electronic gadgets such as phones, ipods, computers, and video games, and less likely to interact with one another. Is there a reason to be concerned about this electronic preoccupation, and can anything be done about it?

In a book by Dr. Osit entitled Generation Text, the author explains that the combination of technology interactions and immediate gratification is challenging todays teens for developing a misguided and distorted self-image, work ethic, a surprising sense of entitlement, tendencies toward aggression, and generally just underdeveloped social skills. It seems clear, then, that it behooves parents to take an interest in the amount of interaction their children are having with technology.

Recent statistics have shown that the average spends more than half of their time in play in front of some sort of screen. The end result is that they are not as connected to their families. The following are some reasons why this should raise flags in the mind of parents.

First, and most prominently, a preoccupation on technology impairs childrens social skills. Their interaction becomes one of input/output, garnered from a constant interaction with a device that responds precisely with an output to their input. But human beings dont work like this, and children need to understand that humans have many more nuances and surprises in their behaviors than machines.

Second, values can become stagnated by an overexposure to certain elements and a lack of exposure to others.

Third, children are allowed a discomfiting level of anonymity through technology, which smoothes over a childs uniqueness and self-awareness.

Dr. Osits book creates two categories in his book: access and excess. Access is the ability to interact with ideas from all over the world, to essentially have the benefit of the world in a living room. However, a lack of filtering on the content that enters a childs mind can affect the way a child develops.

Excess is a childs over access to material that is often accompanied by a sense of entitlement. Parents need to watch carefully the amount and extent of their childs involvement with technology.

In terms of instant gratification, children need to be provided a model of delayed gratification so that they dont enter adulthood with that same sense of getting what they want when they want it. This will require some parents to develop the audacity to say no to their children.

In spite of appearances, research tells that even teenagers respect and want to please their parents. Intervening in a childs access to technology need not contravene their affection for their parents. Boundaries need to be set by parents. Leave cell phones out of dinner. Turn off the television. Place computers in public spaces where their access to negative material might be lessened. Most of all, model this behavior for your children, not allowing your Blackberry to interrupt dinner.