Techno-Shaming: Why it Needs to Stop

IMPOPRTANTI’m sure you’ve experienced ‘techno-shaming’. It’s the roll of the eyes from someone in a cafe when you allow your toddler to use your smartphone. It’s the off-the-cuff comment from an older lady,”Back in my day…” Yes, ask any parent navigating this digital terrain and chances are that they have experienced what I am calling ‘techno-shame’. That guilt-ridden feeling that you should not be allowing your child to use technology.

I’ve experienced techno-shaming myself. As a children’s technology researcher I am in the fortunate position that I can defend my actions. I feel for the poor lady who recently passed judgement. She was subject to my ‘comprehensive explanation’ as to why it was okay for my 3.5 year old to use the Chatterpix app for ten minutes in the doctor’s waiting room after we had been waiting for an hour and he had read all the books in the basket, eaten his snack and played with the flashcards that I keep buried at the bottom of my handbag. I wasn’t rude but I was very detailed in my explanation, shall I say!

However, I know that not all parents can deflect these techno-judgements like I can. There is a lot of techno-guilt about these days. Parents often secretly admit that they use technology to distract/occupy/pacify their children. And that’s okay. Yes, I repeat. That’s okay.

Now it is important to clarify that I am NOT advocating digital baby-sitting. I am NOT proposing that we use gadgets to pacify children all the time. Children need to be bored. Children need to learn how to cope when they have to wait. Children need to learn how to occupy themselves. But sometimes (note, not all the time), as parents, we need to use gadgets. Sometimes that work phone call will not take place if it isn’t for Playschool or the iPad.

However, parents should not feel guilty about allowing their children (every now and then) to use technology. There is no need for techno-shame.

In the Parent Seminars I deliver, I remind parents that their parents often had to distract/occupy/pacify them.  And that wasn’t considered taboo. They weren’t shamed when they handed over a set of keys or a purse to ward off a toddler tantrum. There wasn’t a negative stigma associated with bringing colouring-in books to the waiting room at the doctor’s surgery. Today we just have new devices in our parenting toolbox. And they just so happen to be digital tools. This doesn’t mean that they are ‘bad‘. It  just means that they are different. And I think that is what scares a lot of people.

So it’s time to banish parental techno-shame. Here are three reasons that I think techno-shaming needs to stop.

Tell me in the comments below, have you personally experienced ‘techno-shaming’? How did you handle it?

9 replies
  1. Helen Butler
    Helen Butler says:

    Great post Kristy! I have definitely been on the other end of techno shaming but just like you I’ve used technology strategically and, yes, at times to help save my sanity!!

    I have a child who loves technology and has decided he wants to be a video game designer or Lego designer when he grows up – so I think technology is going to be in our lives for a very long time!!

    Reply
    • Every Chance to Learn
      Every Chance to Learn says:

      Hi Helen,
      It’s so refreshing to hear parents talk candidly about how they REALLY use technology with their children. There is so much mis-informationand fear-mongering in regards to technology. And there shouldn’t be. Like you said, it is all about using technology strategically. It sounds like you technology is going to feature prominently in your house for years to come.
      Thanks for your comments.
      Kristy

      Reply
  2. Pam
    Pam says:

    Kristy,

    I like that you explain how you let your son use the phone “after we had been waiting for an hour and he had read all the books in the basket, eaten his snack and played with the flashcards…”

    It just goes to show how people (myself included) make judgments without knowing the whole story. I’ll remember that the next time I techno-judge!

    Reply
    • Every Chance to Learn
      Every Chance to Learn says:

      Thanks for your comment Pam and for your honesty. I am guilty too about techno-shaming other parents. Yep, being totally candid here. I have watched parents give their children phones at restaurants and made assumptions about their parenting. The reason this blog post was written was because of how it made me feel recently being on the receiving end. We never really know anyone’s full story. So I am going to make a commitment to avoiding techno-shame.

      People are often surprised to learn that my son actually uses technology very sparingly. He really isn’t very interested at this stage. Don’t get me wring he watches TV every now and then and likes using the iPad, but he would much rather be playing in his sandpit or cubby house.

      As a children’s technology researcher I think a lot of people think that I am extreme when it comes to technology and my children. Some people assume that my 3 year old must never use technology and other people think that he must always be connected to a device of some sorts.

      Reply
  3. Clare Greig
    Clare Greig says:

    This is brilliant Kristy, I love the video and 3 reasons. I always feel so GUILTY when my kids are watching TV or on a device and I definitely need to relax about it. I recently bought that Human Body app you mentioned and my son is captiviated. He loves it and keeps talking about how his stomach works.
    Love your work.
    Clare

    Reply
    • Every Chance to Learn
      Every Chance to Learn says:

      Hi Clare,
      So pleased to hear that your son is enjoying the Human Body app. It’s a great example of how technology can provide totally new and innovative learning experiences that other resources like books and blocks just cannot! Technology can be fantastic for young children!

      As busy parents, imagine if we spent more time focused on WHAT children are doing with the technology rather than spending our time fretting because they are using it. Food for thought…
      Kristy

      Reply
  4. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Thanks for showing me the other side of the story. I must admit that since my boys were born in the days before smart phones and iPads (only 11 years ago!) I never had this pacifier in my toolbox and at times I probably do (privately) judge parents who’s kids appear stuck behind a screen. But I’m happy to say I’d never in a million years give so much as give a look to indicate I felt that way!

    Your post makes a particularly good point – we never know the full story. Refrain from judgement and mind your own biz!

    Reply
    • Every Chance to Learn
      Every Chance to Learn says:

      Hi Kelly,

      I admit that I’ve judged other parents before about how they are using technology with kids. I think if we are all honest, we all do it at some point. However, like you, I would never be so brazen as to give someone a disapproving look or to say something. As a parent I have learnt that we are all doing our best. Some days are better than others and we never really know anyone’s ‘full story’.

      Thanks again for your insight.

      Reply

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