We are living in ever-changing times…
Technology is becoming so innovative and developing at such a fast rate that we are witnessing history in the making on a daily basis. I know for some it is exciting, for others it is overwhelming, for some it feels like a loss, and for others it is downright scary.
I am consciously optimistic. I use the word consciously here because it is going to take a conscious effort on our part as parents to navigate this new terrain with our children. We are in uncharted territory and we walk a fine line. Admittedly, there times I want to forbid all use of the computer and mobile devices… But, then I remember the time that I tried to subtly omit all Disney princess paraphernalia from our dramatic play area (because I thought that it was inhibiting imagination). It turned out to be a terrible parenting mistake. It completely backfired and my oldest daughter, who is ten now and was four at the time, became OBSESSED with Disney princesses. She was Aurora in every story she wrote and every pretend play scenario she participated in (even without the Aurora dress and dolls)! I learned then that creating forbidden fruits for my children didn’t work. Although, looking back, I am glad that it didn’t work because what I learned from this experience is that my daughter did not feel listened to or understood.
Quick Note… Before I go any further, I want to emphasize that my husband and I set very clear expectations with our children. There are certain things like respect for each other’s feelings, bodies, and things that are non-negotiable. Yes, we have to set limits, and yes there are certain boundaries children need and are part and parcel of living together as a family.
Yet, for toys, interests, foods, clothes, technology—these are the areas that are the most challenging, and ever-so important to navigate with children because we are dealing with little people that have their own thoughts, preferences, voices, and insights. These are the areas, that if I completely forbid something, not only does it NOT achieve the desired affect, it can have a negative impact on my relationship with my children. I have found that the more I respect their preferences (in moderation of course), the more open my daughters become to my suggestions.
A perfect example of this is when my oldest daughter became obsessed with trying Coke (a forbidden fruit). We are a family that eats healthy, whole foods and have taken great care to raise the girls to be healthy eaters and make good food choices. We try to make things fun by allowing them to indulge in organic sweets and sodas on special occasions. However, one day my daughter could not stop thinking about Coke. After a few hours of incessant questions about Coke… What does it taste like? What will happen if she drinks one? What will happen if she drinks 10? Who do we know that drinks Coke? Who is the person that invented Coke?… She stopped and looked me straight in the eye and said, “You probably don’t want me to keep asking you about Coke, do you?”
This was a huge moment for us… What did I want to say to her? NO! Isn’t there anything more interesting we can talk about than Coke? Isn’t there anything more interesting for you to think about than Coke?
Did I say that? No. I took a deep breath and looked her right back in the eyes and said, “Marilyn, you can ask me about anything you want anytime you want.” And in that moment she realized that she could. And she has been coming to me with questions, thoughts, and concerns ever since. Through it all this should be our goal as parents. To keep our children talking and coming to us.
I will also add, later that afternoon I bought her a Coke. I also bought a natural soda from the health food store and we enjoyed a playful taste test. My youngest daughter chose the natural cola and my oldest chose the Coke. This was about four years ago and I have not heard a bit about Coke ever since.
So, where am a I going with all of this? Technology and children pose the same challenge/opportunity for us as parents. It is a part of our world and provides all of us with extraordinary means for self-expression. As parents we have to stay engaged in this conversation with our kids, even though we get annoyed by it, don’t understand it, and may not particularly like it (just like me and Coke). Once it becomes forbidden fruit and we give them the message that we don’t want to hear about it, they stop coming to us, and that is when technology becomes really dangerous.
I also want to say that I am not advocating for a lot of screen time (especially for the younger children). I don’t think that being on the computer should ever take the place of being outside, being active, or engaging with friends and family. Yet, I do believe, that as parents, we can play an active role in channeling our children’s inherent attraction to technology into a positive, creative, and productive direction. If we stay engaged and educated about the technology that our children are using it can be a life-enhancing, growth-filled opportunity for the whole family.
So now back to the topic of this blog post… Rainbow Loom and growing up in the digital age. If you have not heard, Rainbow Loom is the latest fad with elementary aged children. It is a simple loom that allows children to make very complex jewelry out of little rubber bands. What I like about this particular fad is that it is creative, great for fine-motor skills, develops perseverance, and requires long periods of focus.
What does Rainbow Loom have to do with growing up in the digital age? Well, for the first time since I have been a parent, children from all over the world are making Rainbow Loom DIYs and posting them on YouTube. Children are finding them and learning new skills at an incredible speed. It is not about where you live, where you are from, or what you are wearing. The children making these videos are from extremely different backgrounds, but what is bringing all of them together is knowledge and the ability to share what they know. Just like that, in a matter of months, thousands of videos have been created and seen by children for children!
Now, my daughters are nine and ten years old. We have ongoing conversations about safety on the internet, especially when searching for videos on YouTube. How to navigate this with your children is an important topic that will be covered in another post. Yes, this can raise a lot of valid concerns that most certainly need to be addressed and cannot be ignored.
But, let’s just temporarily put our fears aside.
ISN’T THIS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING? And it is only the beginning… As I heard someone say recently, “We are living in the age of enlightenment.”
The girls decided to jump in and add their own videos to the community. It was incredible watching them create and direct the content of their videos. There is so much that can be learned from all of this… So many life lessons… So many voices to be heard.
My feeling is that as parents we have to take baby steps and what we really need most is a community of parents we trust to explore this new territory with. I would love to hear your thoughts…
BTW – For the latest and greatest Rainbow Loom styles and videos check out, The Ultimate Guide to Rainbow Loom Bracelet Tutorials by Cool Mom Picks.