It would be no exaggeration to say that the Internet has totally changed the way we communicate and connect with one another. This is true of friends, business associates and families. When used well, the Internet allows us to communicate and connect more meaningfully with those around us. However, if we are not careful, the widening array of digital across our kids’ lives can cause as much harm than good. For fathers who are looking for better ways to bond with their children, there are three key things that they should consider in the digital age.
Do not discourage digital access
The Internet can be a frightening place, both for children and their parents. The last thing anyone wants is for their child to stumble across a site or app that will show them something upsetting, or perhaps downloading a virus because of an ad promising free games. However if you think the answer is to limit or discourage access, think again.
It is virtually impossible to prevent a child from accessing the Internet via some form of technology. Even if it were possible it would be a mistake, since Internet literacy and general e-safety are important skills for every child to develop since they will inevitably need to be able to explore online by themselves safely and responsibly.
Instead, it is better to encourage the learning and exploration opportunities that the digital world provides. Fathers should spend time with their children researching their interests and showing them how to find the things they want. We have all heard of how diving down a Wikipedia rabbit hole can be extremely time-consuming, but it could be a fun learning activity where the idea was to look up local wildlife and you end up exploring dark age architecture together after browsing through related topics. If your child isn’t yet at the age of reading fluently, try other picture based platforms that can create this useful time together.
Use technology as a creative platform
Crafts with kids has been an important and effective bonding technique for many years. So in the digital era how can dads create the best of physical crafts in a digital setting?
Luckily modern technology allows for parents to translate this area into the digital medium. Spending time on the computer is great, but it is all too easy to end up consuming endless amounts of information rather than actually doing anything creative.
Each of the things that your children like to do with technology can be transformed into outlets for creativity. For example, your children may enjoy playing video games. Playing together with them is a great bonding experience and a valuable use of time. However, you won’t want to do that all the time. So there are many modern tools and platforms explicitly designed as an entry point for those who want to make their own games. This could be a fantastic way for your child to explore their artistic talent by drawing characters, or get an entry level into programming. Find ways that your skills can complement each other – and make sure it actually gets the kids to make things with you.
Create a time to put it down
Teaching your children about all the benefits of technology and working together with them on projects and helping them is a wonderful thing. However, there may come a point when you need to remind your children, or remember for yourself, that the technology needs to be put away. There will always be something else to do and something else to look at, particularly for parents or children who have a smartphone and an active social media presence.
The key is to lead by example. If you consistently tell your children to wait while you finish looking at an article or you interrupt them whenever your phone has a notification it has two effects. Firstly, it teaches them that it is okay to ignore the world around them in favour of the digital one which is an unhealthy attitude. Secondly, it will weaken your relationship since they will begin to feel like they do not matter if you keep doing that repeatedly.
The work on the phone or computer screen might be important, but they cannot know that. To them, it is just a screen and they are equally ignored regardless of how important the task is.
That is not to say that your children should not engage with social media, it is an important networking tool and they will likely need it eventually. What they need to learn is its relative place in the world. So, how about the whole family puts the phone away for dinner or when going out? Find a good chunk of time where there are zero digital distractions, and commit to it as a whole family. This will also help prevent them investing too much of themselves in their accounts. It is all too easy to become obsessed with how often material is being liked or shared and learning to put technology down at the right time is the first step in avoiding the associated problems.
Author bio: Han-Son runs DaddiLife, a parenting website for dads featuring a range of tips, stories and advice from modern fatherhood and things to do, through to health and lifestyle.