Being a Parent in the iGeneration: Finding a Balance between Virtual and Reality

children, world, technology, child, want, selling, time, marketing, things, today, kids



Being a Parent in the iGeneration: Finding a Balance between Virtual and Reality


Today we live in a world of instant access. Messages can be sent around the world and back in a matter of seconds. The ubiquity of technology has only proven that cautionary sci-fi tales written by the likes of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson can come true. Media has always been saturated with marketing pitches and brands being stuffed down our throats, veiled by a thin veneer of entertainment (or not so thin, when you consider a movie like Space Jam, which was one giant orgy of ads clustered into one terrible movie).

Even thinking back to my childhood, I remember the slogans to at least a dozen television ads as well as I remember the Pledge of Allegiance. They had the same mind-numbing effect, as ever-present objects in the collective consciousness, that for better or worse was a part of our upbringing. I’m confident today that most of the junk peddled to children, especially the food, was nothing more than branding at its best. Nowadays it’s much more prevalent. It’s not just the ads themselves or what they are selling that cause problems. It’s the way we interact with technology as well.

Bad Branding
For over a decade, many of the biggest brands haven’t advertised products. They are advertising ideas, lifestyles or their own brand. Look at Nike’s barefoot running campaign. It may seem absurd that a shoe company is selling the idea of not using shoes to run – but that’s exactly what they did, and it worked like a charm. When people didn’t want their crappy shoe products, they decided to associate Nike with an entire movement in the running world.

Latching their brand onto a cultural phenomenon, and even sponsoring barefoot running events, was genius in terms of marketing. Honestly, there are much worse things out there waiting to seduce your children and shape their young minds. How can we, as parents, find ways to curb this effect and protect our children from shills and affiliates of shills that are slinging bad ideas and values wrapped up in pretty packages? How can we make sure that our children are able to regulate their emotions and avoid technology addiction and emotional imbalance in a world full of viral videos and instant sharing?

Avoiding Shills
I don’t propose that we completely cut our kids off from technology, become Luddites, live off the land and start smashing every computer. I just realize that the business of selling things to kids is rotten in many ways, and many of the things children are conditioned to want have no real value in terms of their personal fulfillment, and in fact reduce their chances of having meaningful life experiences. As concerned parents who want to protect our children from a barrage of YouTube celebrities and Pop Stars who are selling us a bunch of junk we don’t need for nothing more than a better bottom line, it’s tough not to feel overwhelmed.

It’s a problem in any first-world country. Having an abundance of resources and choices can lead to problems associated with overstimulation, over-satiation and lack of direction. I’m not saying everyone needs to have laser focus or tunnel vision (like Gerry Kasparov or Tony Hawk), but being constantly bombarded by virtual reality and all that accompanies it can pull a person in too many directions. Consumerism, childhood obesity, addiction, psychological stress, indifference, emotional turmoil, disregard for the world and lack of empathy are all symptoms of overindulgence in technology.

If you want to make your child unhappy, go ahead and let them have unlimited access to their iPads. Expose them to as many marketing ploys as they can view. Think twice when you are too busy to guide your child away from passively watching videos for hours on end. There are many interactive games available on tablet computers, but even those have their limits. There needs to be a balance with some sort of other sort activity that takes cognitive effort. Social interaction and interaction with the physical world are important, too.

Limiting Screen Time
Too much time in front of a screen can leave little time for activities that develop a child’s brain emotionally and intellectually. Sure, if they are learning to code, it’s a different story. But even that can take its toll. There are certain times where it’s completely appropriate to ban use of all devices. In the morning when you’re getting them ready for school, don’t let them shower and then zone out on a video before school.

This is their time to adjust and prepare for the day. Having a constant distraction can often pull us in two completely directions, and it’s not necessarily a good thing. Give your child the gift of self-regulation by giving them the discipline to choose between a knee-jerk reaction to do what’s easy, and processing their emotions. Consider keeping computers in a shared space, or designating their room as tech-free zones. Make sure they get to be outside among nature or other kids. Today, many children aren’t dealing with their feelings. Instead, they’re changing the channel and letting them build up. Don’t occupy a child with a smartphone if they are being bratty. If you do, you might create a bigger problem down the line.

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Business & Marketing Tips: Being a Parent in the iGeneration: Finding a Balance between Virtual and Reality
Being a Parent in the iGeneration: Finding a Balance between Virtual and Reality
children, world, technology, child, want, selling, time, marketing, things, today, kids
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