Is your child a slave to the Internet?

The entertainment scene has certainly changed over the years. The simple cartoons that used to air on one or two select channels are now drowned by the vibrancy of cable television. Not only are there hundreds of channels available, each one opens to a world of violence, greed, lust or plain delusion.

When it comes to games, technology has allowed developers to create stunning and highly interactive interfaces that even adults are drawn to. The most appealing games usually have the players hooked for hours, leaving them totally oblivious to their surroundings. Where children are concerned, electronic gaming has become the unspoken baby-sitter.

Another infamous source of entertainment is the World Wide Web A.K.A. the Internet. This platform provides children with access to sites like Facebook, a whole other world of entertainment by itself. Aside from ‘meeting’ new friends, children can play a ton of games being created every passing moment.

Statistics for the year 2009 from larrylim.net have shown that the total number of Internet users in Singapore is a mind-blowing 3,370,000, resulting in an Internet Penetration rate of a whopping 72.4%. When you consider that more than 72% of households have access to broadband, it really isn’t that big a mystery as to why children are quickly getting hooked on the Internet.

Potential Concerns

So should parents be concerned when children are being overwhelmed by questionable television shows, addictive video games and undesirable content on the Internet which rob precious time from studies, sports or even a social gathering?

One of the growing concerns, amongst many, is the impact on effective communication between parent and child. Glance around the next time you are out-and-about and you will see children engrossed in their mobile phones or some handheld game, barely acknowledging nor looking up when their parents speak to them.

Should the children finally start talking, parents may find themselves being blasted by unfamiliar lingo picked up from the latest television shows, creating yet one more obstacle in the path of communication between both parties.

After a while, parents get agitated and start forcing their children to engage in a conversation. This inevitably leads to a couple of yelling matches followed by the throwing of vicious tantrums. Eventually, no one gets heard and the relationship sours.

Turning the tables

On the other hand, one could ride on this formidable tide and see it as an opportunity to strengthen relationships. The best way to get closer to your children would be to bond over something you have in common. While knowing who the latest American Idol is, and why the mention of a vampire novel, Twilight, can evoke your child may not be second nature to you, it can become the talking point between you and your child.

Look at it this way; if your tween were to walk up to you during breakfast and start commenting on the current financial crunch and how it may impact their future, would that catch your attention? Likewise, exchanging little titbits of information that your children can relate to will turn their heads. From there, slowly work into matters that you have wanted to discuss previously.

Take a closer look at some of the movies, games and books in the market and you will see materials that parents can make use of to instil positive values into their children. Here is an example; in the Harry Potter series, the main lead constantly triumphs over evil but only after overcoming a series of obstacles, with the aid of close friends. Using this analogy, inform your children that they can achieve anything they want, as long as they persevere and seek help from people closest to them (which in this case would be you).

Another way of bonding is to simply mention the latest tabloid headlines you saw at some celebrity gossip site. For instance, the latest backstage tryst Justin Bieber had with Mariah Yeater will provide quite a bit of material for breakfast before school. Chances are, after mentioning a couple of points, your child will carry on with the conversation by himself/ herself.

As for the lingo picked up from some teenage television series, try to refrain from correcting your child’s English. As much as it may sound like some incomplete adjective or misplaced noun, you might want to just ‘go with the flow’. There is no need to use these new terms though, because chances are only an awkward silence will ensue.

Are you beginning to see how well this can work out for you as parents? The 21st century entertainment does impact how parents communicate with their children. You just need to look for a way to make this impact a positive one.