November 04 2015

What Technology and Princesses Have in Common: Raising Kids in the Digital Age

I am not the biggest fan of princesses. Personally, I think they imbue a sense of superficiality and neediness onto young girls that I don’t want my daughters picking up. So, when I found out I was having my first daughter, I told everyone in my circle, “NO PRINCESS STUFF!”

 

princessimage-01

 

My daughter was going to grow up learning women earned their place in this world based on their efforts and wits and not their amazing hair or their prince’s influence. I was amazing. Basically, I was the best parent in the world.

 

It all began according to plan. But then…

DUH DUH DUH!

dramaticchipmunk

 

She saw a sparkling tiny tiara in Target, just begging to be placed on her little toddler head. I saw her eyes widen, and it felt as if time passed in slow motion as she yelled, “I…WANT…DAT!”

 

And there I stood, at a crossroads, (aka- between the toddler toys and children’s book aisle in Target). The tiara sat there, representing everything I hated. I was so firm in my opinion that princesses cause all body-image issues and dependence on men for young women that I believed if I gave her that tiara, my little one would immediately hate her body and become a floozy. That’s the obvious consequence, amirite?

 

While I stood mulling and suffering and being an amazing parent who cares so much, my daughter grabbed the friggin’ tiara, and as if by instinct, placed it in perfect position on her head. Then, she smiled the widest and most joyful smile I’d ever seen and said, “I look beautiful!”

 

 

Hidden in those ellipses is so much conflict. On one hand, I don’t want her to fixate on her looks or on this tiara. I don’t want this to lead to a childhood obsessed with princesses and barbies and other skinny, gorgeous fake designed dolls. I want her to find her inner strength and beauty and rely on that. But on the other hand, I loved seeing her so happy. And it made me happy she felt beautiful. It’s easy to say looks don’t matter, but feeling beautiful is a wonderful thing. Feeling beautiful is actually empowering. The problem isn’t beauty. The problem is having such narrow and unrealistic definitions of beauty. Yeah???

 

So in that critical moment…

 

I bought the damn tiara.

 

Ugh! I’m so weak!

 

I say all this because, in that moment, I made an important shift in my perspective of parenting that has guided how I handle lots of things that worry me about raising kids. Tech, being one.
Tech, like princesses, is one of those “unavoidables” in childhood. And I, like many parents, had this fear that my kids would be screen-obsessed, anti-social dumb-dumbs who couldn’t hold a normal, non-abbreviated, non-emoji-ridden conversation.

 

But… I did my research and then sat and had a conversation with myself about it (and yes, I used some emojis in that conversation). I realized, like princesses, there is good and bad in tech for kids. For example, video games can be an amazing tool for learning. They make learning fun and put it into context in a way that kids understand. They can also improve skills in socialization and relationship building when played with others, be it remotely, via chatroom, or with a group at your house. Online games can give kids who feel like “outsiders” a sense of community.

 

On the other hand, it can be extremely addictive and, if not managed, can make it too easy for kids to miss out on developing those essential people skills that make us human. Plus, yeah, there are some really disturbing violent games. Like whoa.

 

Where I’ve landed on princesses, and tech, and the like is that being a parent means balancing the “unavoidables” by offering context and guidance. I could try to force her to avoid princesses, but in the end, I believe that would just make her want them more. Or that would mean she would try to hide her passion for princesses from me, and thus build a culture of secrets and mistrust in my home. Plus, there are valuable lessons to be learned from some princesses. Like, Pocahontas teaches us to respect the Earth and other cultures. Belle is smart and an avid reader. Elsa is selfless for her family.

 

As parents, we need to embrace the good in technology and educate ourselves on it. Technology offers opportunities for personalized education. Technology creates a virtual world of seemingly limitless possibility. Any kind of child with any kind of interest can learn and grow via the web. Not to mention, the world is becoming more and more technology-dependent. Teaching your kids to handle that and thrive in that environment is a great skill to bestow upon them.

 

But, as parents, we also need to monitor and teach kids to be responsible with technology. We need for our kids to understand the values, but also understand that there is a whole world beyond the screen that will enrich their lives. Balance, y’all.

 

And the only way to teach balance is to embrace what you are afraid of. Like in Sleeping Beauty, if we try to shelter our kids from all technology (the dangerous spindles of the world) curiosity will bring them there anyway, but they will be unprepared and get their finger pricked and fall into a coma… metaphorically speaking.

 

If you’d like to read more about parenting in the digital age, check out Torch’s blog. They are a tech company helping parents deal with this struggle.

This post was written by Katlyn Whittenburg, the Social Media Manager at Lamp Post Group. Stay up to date on what we are doing! Follow us on:

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