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The digital age has ushered in remarkable transformation in family life especially for parents.
Today’s children are “digital natives,” and they are growing up in a time when screens and technology are integrated into their daily lives, presenting both unique challenges and opportunities.
At the recent Philippine Digital Convention 2023 (PH Digicon 2023) organized by PLDT Enterprise, PLDT Home hosted a session focused on the Filipino family called “Family Perspectives on Smart Home and Artificial Intelligence.”
PLDT Home ambassadors Edric and Joy Mendoza shared what’s it like to have a Smart Home with six children using multiple connected devices simultaneously for school, entertainment or to connect with friends. They noted how it has become a challenge to spend quality time as a family.
So how do they navigate parenting within a Smart Home? During the session, Edric and Joy shared their ABCs of digital parenting—Adapt, Bond, Create—practical steps not only to set boundaries for children’s online access, but moreso to keep strong bonds within the family.
Parenting in the digital age is a multifaceted challenge that requires adaptability, mindfulness, and a commitment to striking a healthy balance. Edric began by saying, “We don’t resist technology; the transformation is happening around us. Instead, we embrace it. But the question is how? What boundaries do we set? I learned from my dad, an engineer, who told me, ‘Son, you need to make sure that you use the right tool for the right job. And that stuck with me.”
To find the right tool, Edric explained that parents must have conversations about technology with their kids. “For example, one of my daughters said all her friends have a smartphone and could she have one too? I said, well, what would you use it for, what is the job that you need it for? She said she wanted to keep in touch with her friends who were all online. I said, does it have to be a phone?”
Instead of one specific device for their very young daughter, they got her a tablet that she can share with her siblings “so it doesn’t become a dangerous thing for our daughter to have by herself. That’s an example of the right tool for the right job. And guess what, she’s enjoying being able to communicate with her friends and sharing the tablet.”
Joy emphasized that parents must build strong relationships with their kids. “The stronger the bond, the greater the influence.” She cited Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a foremost authority on child development, who said, “we cannot influence children whose hearts we do not have.”
So how does this relate to raising digital natives? “If we want to set boundaries, we want to make sure that our kids have the right perspective and habits when it comes to approaching the digital space. We cannot influence them to have boundaries if they don’t trust us with their hearts.”
She shared the story of parents whose son got into gaming during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and how this caused an alarming distraction from his studies. “The parents set boundaries, but he would still find ways to play games. It was so extreme that they had to take his gadgets away from him, but that didn’t work because they would find him playing at 3 a.m. using the household help’s laptop. He did not have the best relationship with his parents, so he did not follow their boundaries.”
Joy said parents can use the digital space to foster a deeper connection with their children. “Bonding in our family looks something like this. On a specific night of the week, we have a date night with our kids. It’s non-negotiable—we block off our schedule to do things together. We actually do online interactive games or stream movies. The important thing is to use the digital space together. In fact, we tell our kids that as a family rule, we don’t watch movies or use content without one another.”
Even parents must hold themselves accountable, she said, because they don’t want their kids copying the habit of isolating themselves on their devices to binge watch. “Being online is definitely okay, but let’s do it together and use it to bond. The aim is to let our kids know that we just don’t love them, but we like them, we enjoy being with them.”
The reality is that not all families have a close relationship like the Mendozas. Some kids are detached from their parents, they seem so far away, but Joy says you can win their hearts by carefully considering what makes them tick. “How can you enter their world? I know a mom who got into dance videos because her daughter was doing it and it was important to her. We’re not against digital, but we have to approach it and use it to bond together. The stronger the bond, the strongest influence. Kids want to have a great relationship with their parents. As a child myself, I still want to have a good relationship with my own parents—and that never goes away.”
Edric raised a realization that one of the most important perspectives for parents is to “want to use the digital space for creation versus consumption.”
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying online content or the occasional bingeing, parents must make sure they’re not setting a bad example for their kids. “We want to ask a very practical question: do we spend more time consuming rather than creating?”
He encouraged parents to create opportunities for their kids to become creators. He explained that during the pandemic, he and Joy asked themselves how they could “encourage their kids to become contributors and not just consumers of different things online.”
One of his sons, for instance, told him that there were many teenagers having problems with mental health. So, they pioneered an effort to create mental health initiatives to reach out to fellow teenagers using an online platform. “Rather than just watching, they used that platform to help so many other teenagers. And with our daughters, we said, why don’t we use this as a chance to teach them entrepreneurial skills? My wife Joy has a community of followers and they like the earrings that she makes for herself. She decided to start selling these with my daughters online and they learned a basic entrepreneurial skill.”
In this age where children are growing up within the Smart Home and in the digital world, most parents face challenges of balancing offline and online family time and raising their children to be responsible digital citizens. The Mendozas are an inspiration that we can all emulate in our parenting journey.
Editor's note: BrandedUp is designed to provide you with insightful, inspiring, and educational content created by The Philippine STAR in collaboration with brands like PLDT Home.