How to be a parent in a ‘smart’ world

Why we need to engage our kids in actual play
Why we need to engage our kids in actual play

There is a sufficient barrage of articles already about how smart devices are eroding family lives and, sadly, even child development. But, like it or loathe it, smart devices are here to stay.  But we don’t have to let it run our lives—especially our children’s lives. Here are some guiding principles and ways I try to tackle modern day parenting.

1. Set to unplug: I try to switch off when I reach home and when my family is with me. Strategically it helps to clear my mind and focus on what truly matters – my family. I then limit checks on the phone every two hours (or sometimes none at all!).

2. Set a limit: Be selective about the apps you install and delete the old unused ones.  Periodic unnecessary updates are a distraction from meaningful family time. I limit my apps to two half ‘pages’ of my screen and make sure those icons don’t cover the wallpaper on my hand phone which has my family photo on it. Symbolic? Go figure.

3. Set an agreement: On occasion where urgent work commitment beckons, I would let my family know of that certain work contingencies I need to attend to. This would and should be few and far in-between. After the matter is resolved, I would revert to point number 1 above.

The approaches I set above are guided by the following principles.

a. In the moment: In an age where multi-tasking is encouraged. There is something to be said about being ‘in the moment’.  Being focused on what our children are saying, doing and importantly, thinking.  I find it increasingly necessary to distill underlying values and thoughts from my daughter’s conversations and actions, so as to affirm the appropriate ones and to correct the otherwise. For that to happen, I need to be very much in the moment.

b. Involved:  Linked to the first point.  This goes one step further and that is to be part of what she does. In our outings and trips, we try to be engaged in what she does and it’s often easier said than done as we too would like some time for ourselves too. But try, we must. There are times we would even intentionally visit her school to talk to her teachers and friends to get a glimpse into our child’s life.

c. Interactive: If left unchecked, smart devices can rob our children from developing important social skills, which are critical for them to negotiate the volatile and unpredictable adult world. Getting them out and about with us, their friends and their extended family members help to build a keen sense of social awareness and social skills.

d. Imagination: You don’t need apps or any electronic media to engage your child.  A simple toy, a conversation, an observation, a joke, a visit to the local museum…all these are more effectively in arousing a healthy sense of curiosity, imagination, and creativity in our kids better than any sterile and controlled environment would.

e. Intentional: I guess this is the key. As parents, while it’s challenging, our parenting have to be intentional and deliberate.  It calls for us to be active in planning our children’s development and not leave things to chance and coincidences.  What sort of person you’d like your child to grow up to be? What character values would you like them to have?

What are some of your ways and guiding principles to negotiate the ‘smart’ world so that we can all be effective parents?

David blogs together with his wife at (formerly on their adventures in parenting their two children.  On working days, he aspires and strives to balance his work commitments with his love and time for his family. David’s other passion are to shoot, hit and fly:  David loves photography – ‘to freeze time and moments’. He plays the piano, flute and hits away at his myriad of percussion instruments.  He loves to discover new places, people and perspectives through travel, books or conversations over coffee… or beer.