It is wonderful to see how the new generations of fathers grow more and more engaged in the lives of their kids.
So many dads have finally understood the great advantages of being present, and that is definitely good for parents and kids (1) ). They are not just someone who pays the bills and takes care of the kids when mom is not around. However, it comes at a time where most marriages or relationships do not create the stereotypical family with mom, dad, and kids living in the same house. Many parents decide to become single parents or engage in co-parenting options and formats of all sorts.
This means dads need info!
The whole parenting crew (mom, dad, other relatives, and caretakers) has to be on the same page, regardless of the circumstances. Why? Well… Early years have been proven to be decisive in the healthy upbringing and development of kids. On the one hand, there’s the nutrition aspect and how our individual choices as conscious adults are shaping our kid’s development. Is it right or wrong to introduce kids to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles? Pro or against vaccinations? But then, we go into their early psychological, educational, social, and physical development. Pro or against early swimming lessons? A second language? One of those choices has to be the digital engagement and screen time of our kids.
As you’re probably aware by now, there are plenty of studies that keep showing that early technology adoption has serious impact in the development of kids. However, those studies do not take into account that parents now more than ever are completely immersed in digital technology. That full immersion makes it almost impossible to keep kids away from digital devices. Furthermore, despite any differences we may have in parenting and teaching styles, we can all agree that kids learn what they see. Even if we do not allow them to use devices, they see us all day, every day, making digital technology our first concern.
This is a truly complex subject, with many different views, and approaches. But it all comes down to the fact that we need to be informed. We need to make conscious choices, and dads are the key element in this equation. Many of us have reached out to moms assuming they are the main influencers in kids’ activities and patterns. We have explained to them why it is so dangerous when screens keep kids “under control”. But how about dads? What about the time kids spend with them? What are dad’s habits? You’re probably watching TV, playing videogames, or having to take business calls or work from home in his computer. So guess what? Kids see that too! And, by the way, that action movie with millions of bullets and blood, or that videogame where they “kill” the enemy are definitely not suitable for most young ages.
However, and regardless of how much quality time dads are spending with their kids, they are known to be the key force to push kids to go beyond their limitations. This is definitely great when you are building kids’ confidence, and empowering them to learn more about nature, the world, and their bodies. However, going beyond the boundaries set regarding devices and technology use, puts kids in an environment where we lose all control over any consequences and impact. And even worse, it places them in an environment to which we are little or not familiar, since technology and resources evolve so rapidly that new generations have experiences that are radically different to the ones of the previous generation.
Dads, you have to understand that you will not only be your kids’ heroes, you are their role models! Anything you do, they’ll want to do (at least while they’re young). You’d probably feel super proud if your super young son can drive and do all sorts of crazy things. But, the truth of the matter is you need to know why and when they can and should be able to do these things.
The key concept is not what kids CAN do, because they can do more than we imagine; but what SHOULD kids do. What are they ready for?
You also need to remember that at some point you’ll want to spend time with your kids, learn from them, and have them learn from you. That will not happen if their first and closest relationships happen to be with a screen. You may use digital technology early on to stay connected and present in your kids’ lives, or to keep them connected to relatives who may not be able to visit regularly.
Building bonds and relationships through technology with real people is definitely a skill worth learning.
What you don’t want is to have devices and games take over their connection with real life. You don’t want this early escape from reality. Reality is boring, and obnoxious, and sometimes it takes a while to understand it; but the more you run away from it, the more it comes back to find you. If they escape from reality and into devices, then the reality of cyberbullying, depression, trafficking, crime, and disconnection may find them in there.
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