Tuesday, 27 September 2016

What Is My Technolegacy To My Child?

Whenever my daughter gets a chance to rifle through my handbag she systematically pulls everything out until she finds my phone.

Although we do FaceTime family on the iPad, she has never even been shown pictures on a phone, so - at 11 months - she doesn't know what they do. The screen is blank, but she stares at it in fascination and jabs at it with her fingers.

These little black boxes are a mystery to her, but they are also her biggest contender for our attention.

I am consumed by guilt whenever I realise that she is whining because I have been distracted by my phone.

I thought I was being a good parent by not letting her have screentime. But digital devices have been omnipresent in her life since before she was born, and I sent pictures of my scans to my family.

So what effect is technology having on her?

I was 14 when the Internet arrived in my school.

Every lunchtime hoards of teenage girls queued up in the library for their turn on the computers, so they could use chatrooms to talk to strangers. The school cottoned on relatively quickly and blocked chatrooms, but we just found 'forums' instead.

For months my friend and I shared our romantic woes and aspirations and sought dating advice from a 'friend' we had made who told us his name was Jack, he was in his 30s and he lived in America.

We could have been talking to anyone. It could well have been a 14-year-old girl in another school we chatted to that whole time. But a more sinister thought is that it was a man in his 30s.

I am now a carer for a vulnerable young girl who will soon be using the Internet herself.

In those days it took hours to share a photo and video was not even a possibility.

Some people believe that every time their picture is taken they lose a piece of their soul. There may be some truth to that if every time I see me daughter learn to do something for the first time, I reach for the camera and watch it through a lens, rather than living that moment with her.

Today, each stage of my daughter's life has been documented in pictures and videos and stored in a cloud somewhere. When she is old enough to want to see them there could well be too many for to have time to look at.

But I do not share them on social media. I do not feel I have the right to give away any pieces of her soul so carelessly.

Social media came into my life just after I finished being a student. I had a MySpace page and shortly after that a Facebook account.

At first it seemed a great way to keep in touch and track down old friends.

But as a young woman in her twenties who still cared so much what other people thought, it felt hard comparing myself to peers who seemed more successful, more attractive, happier even, than me.

I eventually realised that I had more 'Friends' on Facebook than I had ever had real friends. And that scrolling through all those updates and photos usually left me feeling alone, not connected.

I can't help worrying what it will be like for my daughter growing up with social media right from the beginning of that time in life when you start to compare yourself to other people.

I want to do everything I can to protect her. But equally I don't want her to be left out or   left behind in this ever updating digital world.

Now a recent report on the increase of childhood cancer rates cites radiation from mobile phones as a possible cause, and I have a new concern to add to my list.

Technology is a fact of life now. I have to help my daughter use it in all the right ways that will make her life easier and better.

But I also want to teach her that there is a real world too. And sometimes the only way to be switched on to it, is to turn off technology.

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