The positive role of technology: why parents should embrace the online world

Technology, the Internet and our children’s engagement with the online world have lead to many favourable advancements and developments for our children as well as some positive outcomes for their emotional and social wellbeing.

When we think of technology and the online world and the ramifications for our children, we instinctively think of the negative elements and the inherent risks associated with its use. Certainly, these fears are very real and as parents, we must be aware of these dangers if we are to successfully guide, educate and support our kids. But there are some wonderful and important advantages to this new technology that parents must learn to embrace if they are going to continue to connect with their children and steer them through this new world.

Recent times have seen a shift in the way kids use technology from purely a vehicle for information and entertainment to a major tool in communication, predominantly via social networks.

Here are some of the positive outcomes that can be attributed to our children’s engagement in these types of networks:

A sene of belonging and community

The online world creates places where people can find connections, ‘like-minded’ people and groups where they feel they are part of a community. The use of hashtags in Twitter and groups and pages on Facebook are examples of ways that kids can find people to connect with whilst their struggles, their endeavours or their interests can be supported by friendship,  advice, expert knowledge, camaraderie and empathy.

Self Expression and identity

Kids often use social media to experiment with their political, cultural, ethnic or sexual identity and this can have a positive effect on those not able to fully express themselves in person or with their peers. They can use forums, networks and blogs to express their views and test out their values and identity. Many find that the ‘less than confronting’ nature of the Internet can allow for them to voice their opinions and organise their thoughts in a setting that isn’t confined by their parents, other adults or other social constraints.

Strengthening of interpersonal relationships

Certainly having positive  personal relationships is an important factor in anyone’s wellbeing and again for many kids they can develop meaningful relationships online. There is also the ability to strengthen existing relationships with the use of social media when the constraints of geography, time limits of homework and afterschool activities and suitable places to catch up would otherwise make it difficult to stay connected.   Studies have also found that those who suffered disabilities or chronic illness have developed enduring and dependable relationships to help them through difficult times.

Creating

Technology has opened up a whole new platform for kids to create. They can share content via blogs, animations, videos and photos, all of which help empower individuals to develop their own sense of creativity and identity. Kids are making new content, reworking old content and coming up with new and more creative ideas to get a message across, express an idea or connect with others. There is much that can be encouraged by allowing our children this freedom to create.

 

When we think about technology it is all too easy to claim that our children’s knowledge is more extensive than our own and that we will never catch up. Rather than believing it is beyond us however,  we must instead seek to understand all of its elements,  including the many positive aspects that go a long way to benefiting our children’s wellbeing, lifestyle and development.

The more we can find out about this world, the more chance we have of keeping the lines of communication open and ensure that we can continue to navigate our children through the risks and dangers whilst allowing them to flourish in all the many positive aspects of the online world.

What positive outcomes have you or your children experienced as a result of a connection with the online world?

 

 

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30 Responses to The positive role of technology: why parents should embrace the online world

  1. kirri July 3, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    Martine, I guess I am possibly in the minority, in that I do not instinctively think of the negative elements and the inherent risks associated with the use of technology. I love the fact that my kids can stay in weekly ‘face-to-face’ contact with family all over the world and that programmes such as ‘reading eggs’ have been able to teach them more about letters and words in a month than I have been able to in a year. I’m amazed by the school projects my 8yo creates with help from online graphics and resources…..So far, it’s all been positive. I just want it to stay that way!
    kirri recently posted…Dancing in circlesMy Profile

    • Martine July 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

      thanks Kirri, and certainly keeping in contact and connecting with family and friends who are far away is one of the greatest aspects of this technology, as well as the enormous scope for learning and education.

  2. Rhianna July 3, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    I agree that given the chance technology and the Internet can be very positive for children of all ages. It is evident that it is not going anywhere so best we all embrace it. Whether we like it or not our children are growing up in a digital age so best we make the most of it and help them to navigate safely through it all
    Rhianna recently posted…Getting to Know Eamon Sullivan’s MumMy Profile

    • Martine July 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

      Absolutely it is not going anywhere…so at the end of the day we really don’t have a choice. As you said, best we make the most of it so they can use it safely and to its greatest potential.

  3. Rachel @ The Kids Are All Right July 3, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Definitely the sense of belonging and camaraderie (Facebook) and the creative expression and identity (Tumblr). I would also say education – my teenager uses YouTube to explore different kinds of music (even from “the olden days”), film, tutorials, etc. I like it too as a window into their world. I get a kick out of seeing the clever and funny repartee between her and her friends. I think they are really lucky to grow up with the world at their end of their fingers.
    Rachel @ The Kids Are All Right recently posted…Yet another Blogopolis postMy Profile

    • Martine July 3, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      I love that you get a kick out of your childs banter between friends. And yes it is a fabulous tool for education, with so much more scope for more varied learning experiences.

  4. Grace July 3, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    For us, Skype has been a great way for the twinlets to stay in touch with family.
    Also, our new daycare centre uses a few iPad educational apps which I’m completely supportive.

    I agree with you and don’t think that it’s “beyond us to catch up with technology”. I was a corporate sales professional in IT for 10 years and if I could see for myself how conservative, techno-phobe executives could start embracing new technologies. I don’t see how it should be any different from parents.

    Thank you for listing the positives. It’s always good to hear them.
    Grace recently posted…Keith Urban, please come play at our house…My Profile

    • Martine July 3, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      I love that Skype can help keep connections active, especially when little ones who grow so quickly can be easily viewed. And the biggest techno phobe was my dad…and he now owns an iPad…so yes anyone can learn to embrace it!

  5. Denyse Whelan Education Specialist July 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Hi Martine,
    This is such a relevant topic for me, as an education specialist, and grandmother.
    What surprises me still is the fact that there are parents who are ‘fearful’ of the internet and on-line technology. One is my son!! In fact, it possibly stems from the need for him to professionally be distanced from home persona so I get that.
    However he encourages his little ones (almost 3 and almost 5) with some Iphone games, and due to my ‘push’ he has taken the step via Reading Eggs with Mr almost 5 to become connected on-line.
    I see the world on line being a tool of learing..but it doesnt replace the hands-on of connecting writing implement with writing materials, or an arm around a child reading a bedtime story ( from a book not an ipad)
    Warm wishes
    Denyse… over here from #TeamIbot
    Denyse Whelan Education Specialist recently posted…No. No. No. Can You Say No?My Profile

    • Martine July 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      Thanks Denyse. And I guess with those of us writing and reading blogs it is more difficult for us to understand, but for those not living in this world…I guess that is where the fear comes into play. I still believe we need to be cautiously fearful of many online elements, however knowledge is certainly power in this instance. And like you said, we still need to keep room for other pursuits and ‘hands on’ connecting….but strive toward a workable balance in order to reap the greatest benefits.

  6. Jess July 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    For me, bogging has been so empowering, and I’ve been able to explore other dreams through things like You Tube.
    It’s definitely has both it’s positives and negatives, but in my mind, the plusses far outweigh the minuses.
    Jess recently posted…Time for a GiggleMy Profile

    • Martine July 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

      Thats great Jess…and anything that empowers us has got to be a good thing!

  7. PlanningQueen July 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    I guess being online so much I too automatically think of the positives of technology. As a parent they can be a challenge to manage well, but they can be great social connectors for kids and a fabulous supplement to traditional learning.
    PlanningQueen recently posted…Strawberry Santa HatsMy Profile

    • Martine July 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

      Yes certainly for those of us regularly online it is easier for us to recognise the positive elements and the ways in which it can enhance our kids learning and asocial connections.

  8. Aroha @ Colours of Sunset July 5, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    I think everything in moderation. It all has its place, doesn’t it, but I do worry about kids who spend far too much time in front of it. Even though I’m guilty of that myself. How can I be addicted and not expect my son to become the same? It should absolutely be embraced…and monitored. Will looking into this Reading Eggs thing, haven’t heard of it! It scares me how quickly they pick it up, too. My Mr4 is far more competent even at turning the TV on than his grandmother is! haha!
    Aroha @ Colours of Sunset recently posted…Thankful ThursdayMy Profile

    • Martine July 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

      Absolutely..moderation is the key. And yes we must be careful the example we set for our kids. If we don’t want them on it all the time (which they shouldn’t be) then they need to see how we manage our own online time. And yes…the skills they develop so quickly and easily!

  9. BossyMummy July 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    I am definitely a big believer in embracing technology for our kids. Having lived overseas for seven years, using Skype etc to keep in contact with our friends is invaluable. I also agree it is wonderful as a learning tool – I think all your commenters are probably coming from a skewed sample – we all live online and can see so many positives 🙂

    • Martine July 5, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

      You are so tight that those of us reading and writing blogs are already well aware of the many benefits of technology, as I still seem to come across (in real life) many who are fearful of technology without trying to find out the best way they can help their children avoid the pitfalls.

  10. Lloyd July 5, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I totally agree with everything you said in this post. However, we should still be vigilant over what we do especially when we go online. The sad thing is that there is a thin line between the positive role and the possible negative effects of technology.
    Lloyd recently posted…cheap costumes for kidsMy Profile

    • Martine July 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

      Couldn’t agree more Lloyd, it is just that I am often writing about the risks associated with online use particularly social media, but in order for parents to help guide them through the pitfalls, they need to understand and embrace the role that it plays, and often that can be a positive role too.

  11. daddownunder July 13, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Nice piece. There are undoubtedly many develpmental benefits that come with technology and the way our society is heading it feels like a hinderance not to expose your children to it. My own upbringing was very outdoors, full of adventure and excitement, I worry that technology encourages kids to watch/read other people particpate in the things that they could be doing themselves. Its such a relevant topic for all parents today, I will remain perched on the fence for now.
    daddownunder recently posted…Forgive Me Fathers For I Am About to SinMy Profile

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