By Wahida Fitriah
GOMBAK, 22 February 2022: Living in the digital age requires parents to make a paradigm shift in parenting approach to navigate their children in technology usage to nurture digitally resilient children and future generations.
This was the view shared by Dr. Shafizan Mohamed, a communication lecturer, during a talk session titled “Digital Parenting: Building Digitally Resilient Children and Future Generations” held virtually on Zoom platform on Sunday (20 February).
Shafizan began by telling the session that parents of her era and those in the past were never exposed to formal training or structured curriculum on how to become a parent because parenting is perceived as contextual, dynamic and culturally sensitive.
She shared that growing up in the 1980s or 1990s, parents were living a different childhood as compared to their children today.
“Hence, the main difference between these two generations is technology,” Shafizan said.
“We (the parents) used to go out and meet our friends. But our children talk to their friends while they are gaming,” she remarked.
Due to the generation gap, terms such as ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ have been coined referring to the children and parents respectively.
Shafizan said, “Children are now born into technology, and they can swipe before they can walk or talk.
“The children have no fear of technology because it has become their natural habitat.
“On the other hand, parents have a lot of fears and anxieties because they can recall a past where it was not technologically oriented,” Shafizan emphasised.
With the prevalence of technology in today’s world, Shafizan raised the need for parents to equip themselves with digital parenting which refers to the practice of managing their children by incorporating usage of digital technology.
Shafizan emphasised that the application and technology are so prevalent in the way parents manage their children. For instance, she said that “pregnant women can now download an application in order to track the development of the baby”.
Unfortunately in the course of technology usage among children, Shafizan said, there are risks that they are exposed to such as cyberbullying, gaming disorder, social media disorder, violent content, sexual content, risky contact, cyber threats and reputation risk.
Hence, she affirmed that most parents should try to control and restrict their children’s usage of technology.
However, despite the widespread awareness of parental control, parents cannot control everything because technology has become so pervasive.
She stated that “from 2018 to 2020, especially with the pandemic, the children have been using so much technology, but parental actions are decreasing.”
On the other hand, while parents are aware of the risks associated with technology, there are vast opportunities that technology is offering where it can be utilised as a tool for learning, socialisation, entertainment and enhancing skills.
Shafizan stated that the use of technology allows children to learn things easier in comparison to previous eras.
“The children are not just learning things from textbooks, but they can learn specifically what they want to learn,” she stressed.
So, when engaging in digital parenting discussions, parents should acknowledge that technology is all about risks and opportunities where balancing between these two is very important.
“If we (the parents) do not want to take the risks, there will be no opportunity. But, if we are willing to venture into high risks, we are bound towards high opportunity.
“If we can expose the children to the risks and opportunities, we hope we can build children who are resilient,” she remarked.
Shafizan also shared her thoughts on the best way to deal with children which is to mentor over monitor by encouraging, guiding and negotiating with the children in the use of technology.
“We should monitor and control, but we must realise that it is just a preemptive action, not a solution.
“When it comes to digital parenting, parents need to tell their children that there are risks, but we want them to take the risks and we will be here if they encounter any problem,” she highlighted.
Shafizan further clarified that “parents need to tell their children how to use technology and be open to negotiate the rules according to the context”.
However, although today’s children are ‘digital natives’, she believed that good values must be instilled in them because there are more values that they should uphold aside from technology. ***