I’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?