Parenting in the digital age has proven challenging for parents all over the world as we experience the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). How parents adapt and respond to the new dynamics of parenting is important, according to an expert.
Speaking in an interview on Salaamedia, author of Parent-child relations: A guide to raising children, Professor Omar Altalib said the digital age engendered new dimensions to parenting.
Highlighting the first new challenge, Altalib said: “We are in an age where, for the first time in human history, children know more than their parents. Number two; for the first time in human history children are able to make friends without ever physically meeting their friends.”
Prof. Altalib said addressing these challenges of parenting in the digital age was important because he wanted to guide parents in finding the best ways to deal with them. He said this was to rely on the Qur’an and modern research on parenting.
“By bringing revelation and the realities of the world today together into a comprehensive model, we are hoping that parents will be able to raise children that are able to face the
challenges that everybody is facing today,” he said.
Prof. Altalib said parenting in the digital age was affected by the increasing accessibility of information. He said this came in direct conflict with traditional values of elders possessing wisdom.
“In our cultures,” he said, “We value respect for our elders and you will find this element in the upbringing of their children. Part of the respect for elders was because they had more knowledge and more wisdom. Now, we are in an age where knowledge available immediately via a smartphone in the hands of a child is vastly more than
their parents could ever know or their elders could ever be able to conjure up.”
Altalib said, to address this shift, parents should shift their focus towards creating experiences rather than spitting facts. For example, he said, parents wishing to instil the value of water should take their children to a water source and show them the effects of pollution.
The next key issue of parenting in the digital age is the ability of children to connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime. While socialising can be a rewarding experience for children, digital connection has divided parents on the benefits of its use. Prof. Altalib is unambiguous in his stance on the matter.
“Socialisation is an important element. Children have to learn to be civilised and that happens through interacting physically face-to-face with other children,” he explained.
However, as Altalib argued, the digital age robbed children of meaningful physical interaction. He warned this could be a “disaster” for every element of the child’s wellbeing.
“We have a conundrum today. For the first time in human history children are spending more time with technology than they are spending with other human beings,” he said. “This is a disaster, this is clearly problematic psychologically, sociologically [and] religiously.”
Altalib advised parents to counter the increase in screen time by creating opportunities for children to have more physical interaction. He said this included interacting with neighbours, visiting community centres and the mosques.
“Of course, it is easier said than done because iPads, smartphones and computers are so attractive and they are so easy. But, if you want your child to be a healthy child, psychologically and socially, make it part of their life to interact with other human beings,” he said.
He added that it was important to maintain other aspects of parenting, such as a healthy home environment and proper conflict resolution. A digital copy of Prof. Altalib’s book is available for free download.