Parenting is a tough job; it requires several emotional and intellectual skills which can be a source of huge stress for most parents. Added to that, the competitive world full of temptations makes an already demanding task far tougher.
Newspapers carry multitude of horror stories each morning-kidnapping, child rape, rave parties- and endless such reports which are enough to make any parent move into emergency mode. Working parents who leave child rearing to their house-help, neighbours or parents are troubled many times over for their child’s safety.
Jaspreet Singh, CEO of a company and mother to a teen, says “I worry what my young daughter is doing after school on an average day; I keep calling up to check on her.”
The virtual world seems to have an answer for this as well.
GPS tracking devices, CCTV cameras, smart-phone apps, are helping parents keep track on their children.
CCTV cameras, for example, are positioned at strategic points in the house and provide either live or recorded feed to the user. They are catching on as a popular method for parents to monitor their kids’ activities. Parents can return home and check on whether children have eaten meals on time, done homework and how much time was spent on TV.
GPS tracking devices are small pager-like devices that parents “arm” their kids with; the device alerts the parents via sms whenever the child leaves any of the safe zones pre-programmed into the device.
For people who are balancing several roles daily- work, home , social and parenting duties- these devices seem like a god-sent.
Does virtual parenting (policing) work in the real world? I asked a mixed bunch of people to respond including parents, teens and child psychologists. Here are some doubts we raise about using such methods.
Another form of helicoptering? The term “helicopter” parents refer to moms and dads who “hover” constantly over their kids, and are over-cautious alarmists who rush to do everything for their children. For such parents these devices would become a natural extension of their parenting style. But helicoptering kids, especially with technological aids, is only going to cause problems in the child’s natural development.
Amritha Upadhyaya, mother to an adolescent says “These devices are only a short term measure. What are the kids learning from this for their future…”be obedient and rule abiding when someone is watching over you and other times, its FREEDOM…” They actually go to the extremes to free from the sense of repression. I know of a case where the mother was very strict with her rules. Then came day, when as a teen, he got a day without her monitoring; and decided to freak out with his friends. He died in an accident.
One of the biggest dangers of overdoing anything is that it may have an unfortunate outcome.
Does it compensate for life skills? Today’s techno-crazy world we are reading reports on “skype parenting”!!!! Virtually everything has become virtual! But nothing compensates for teaching a child discipline, values and decision making. Studies show that children who are constantly monitored grow up to be shaky, under-confident adults who find it difficult to face the real world.
Ruchi Shah, a Child Psychologist says “The world has technologically advanced so much that Virtual Parenting is just another gadget like the iPad, Blackberry etc. Using but not abusing this tool is important. A child’s growth depends upon how he has been brought up throughout his childhood, and if every mischief is stopped or restricted, the spirit of living like a kid is all gone. Using Virtual Parenting during necessary situations would be healthy and smart.”
Are these devices age-appropriate? Technology can be an excellent way to monitor safety of children between ages 2 and 8. Younger children are usually heavily dependent on caregivers and may become victims of abuse and neglect if left with maids, babysitters etc.
But how would adolescents and older teens react to such policing? Adolescents are most likely to rebel and get reactive when faced with such boundaries.
17-year-old Namrata Loka says “Virtual Parenting comes across as nosy and unnecessary. It would be a privacy concern for me”. Using CCTVs or such gadgets could be considered a violation of their privacy and could lead to a fairly stressed home atmosphere.
Putting views and opinions together, how much sense do these gadgets really make in the long run? Do they actually help monitor children or are they just another form of parental policing, or even a way to compensate for parental guilt.
After all, at some point children are going to leave the house and move into the real world. If values are taught and modeled in a healthy way by parents, the child is going to behave responsibly irrespective of whether parents are around or not.
A final word: Technology needs to be used judiciously, the virtual world is a boon but if misused can make reality a difficult place!
This post originally appeared in the RobinAge.