Monthly Archives: February 2014

Is technology good for your kid?

I’ve long been a proponent of technology in childhood. I’m the guy who bought his 2 year-old a tablet, so apparently I’m into it. And we’re talking about it. Mostly–it’s lamentation of the toddler holding an iPhone, so engaged in what he’s doing he’s decided to cease communication with those around him at dinner, it’s talking about how “all kids do these days is sit on their phones (or computer, or tablets, etc.)”.

Technology and your kids is yet another area where parents (especially first-time parents) like to declare they’ll “never let their child do that”–though I encourage you to hold off until you realize you need your kid to sit still for like 5 whole minutes while you go do something in the other room. But there’s like this terror that once you introduce some technology to a kid, that they will turn into a wireless, app-obsessed child-drone. Parents will say that they want their “children to experience the real-world” and discover things on their own.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you look around, this IS the real world now. According to the US Census, when millennials were being born, about 8% of US households had a computer physically in the home. In 2012, 79% of American households have a computer. Even since 1997, internet usage in the home has jumped from 18% to 75%. My house growing up didn’t have a computer in it until 1993–when I was 8 years old. And we had Prodigy. So yeah.

But there still remains this aversion to technology use in children–even among millennial parents (as 71% of us own smartphones). Are we unnecessarily knee-jerking? And in doing so, are we setting ourselves up for failure later?

Don’t get me wrong, I do not think unlimited, unrestricted technology use in children (that is, children younger than 6) is what we need. But what we do need is an honest, serious discussion about how we should be introducing technology to our kids rather than just decreeing NO TECHNOLOGY UNTIL (insert whatever random age when your kid is suddenly responsible/smart/not–droneable(?) anymore).

I’m a graduate student in education, and my cognate area is in online education and adult learning, but last summer I also dabbled in this very topic area because I wanted to see what actual literature was out there about technology use in children. I could sit here for hours and ramble on about “how my kid benefits and here’s why you should too”. But I wanted to actual see what the research was saying. First and foremost–and perhaps this is part of the whole problem–there’s not a ton of research out there. So it was quite the information gathering assignment, but I was able to find a lot of resources and studies on technology in children and I even threw it into a nice Prezi, which I can share with you here.

I would certainly encourage you to check out the Prezi and also, the individual studies I cited in the Prezi. The greatest point to be made is that technology is not going to suddenly go away. And parents now are more connected than any time in history. There’s a computer in nearly in every home, a smartphone in the majority of homes, and the internet in a very large majority of homes–I’m not exactly sure where we plan on hiding these gadgets and making our kids suddenly less interested.

One of the studies I cited talked about the increasing use of the tablet or mobile device as a parenting tool (giving it to your kids for 5 minutes while you do something else), but there’s not been any serious consideration by the same parents to turn it into an educational tool. What is the goal by doing this? We’re using this incredibly technology for the wrong purposes. And it’s that purpose that causes the knee-jerk to “no technology” for the others. Should we not instead be introducing these devices to our children as a link into the real-world? When is a better time to teach them to be responsible digital citizens? Or is this another thing that we’re going to leave “to the schools” and then complain when our kids aren’t acting responsibly with technology?

I think the time is now for 1) more research and 2) a serious discussion about responsibly introducing technology to children in early childhood.

Starting two journeys at once

Our son, the one for whom this blog was started, is approaching age 5.

As the parent, I often get bogged down in what changes will mean to my life. I think about routines, sleep schedules, day care costs, safety, etc., without giving much regard to what age 5 is going to look like to my son.

He has some big changes coming in his life. In June, he’ll become a big brother. Speaking as a big brother, it’s a big task. Not just the thousands of hours you’ll log as an unpaid babysitting provider, but there’s a lot riding on being a big brother. You’re the de facto peer model. You often set the bar for the expectations of the younger sibling. And when you come out of adolescence and into adulthood, the bond you share with your sibling is greater than just about anything. My brother and I text each other pretty much every single day. At age 5, you don’t worry about that, but becoming a sibling is the beginning of an incredible journey, and it is life changing.

Simultaneously, he starts kindergarten this year. While he’s been attending preschool full-time for almost two years, kindergarten is the first step on the path of education that he’ll have to endure for the next 13 years of his life. 2340 days of his life has already been decided for him. And elementary school is the easiest part.

We’ve been trying more and more to get him involved in the pregnancy. And I think it’s really real to him right now, because he understands there’s a baby in mommy’s belly. He loves talking about her and he’s really excited about meeting her. He’s going to a sibling class at the hospital on Saturday to learn how to take care of his sister.

I know that he doesn’t have to worry about things like finances or sleep or pediatrician appointments, because Mom and Dad will handle all of that. But what a change for such a little person. A lot of responsibility gets put on your back at such a young age. I talk constantly about us millennials become parents. Well Gen Z are becoming siblings. I’m really glad he’s along for the ride. It’s going to be different this time. Not just because it’s our “second kid”, but we have another person taking the journey with us.

I’m excited to see how this goes.

How many millennial parents are there–and are we on the verge of a boom?

According to Forbes, about 10.8 million of us. And right now, millennials are responsible for 80% of the births in the United States. And 40% of millennials are already parents.

This is a very statistically significant number. As Gen X winds down their parenting years, all signs point to another population boom–as more and more Gen Y “kids” enter their prime birthing years. Even the oldest millennials are in their early 30s, and so there remains a large swath of millennials just now getting ready to be come parents.

The differences are even prevalent on my own Facebook timeline. Pictures of friend’s kids have taken the place of pics from a night at the bar. Gatherings of friends usually involve at least 1 child, and invitations to kids’ birthday parties are sometimes more prominent than those to house parties (millennials, by the way, are more likely to use Facebook to invite people to birthday parties than traditional snail-mail).

However, and this comes as little surprise, millennials are waiting later than ever to have children. The average age of the first-time of the Gen Y parent is hovering around 30, up significantly since 1980, when the average age was closer to 25. Millennials are in an interesting place. Many of us entered the workforce as the economy tanked, pushing back plans for families, and pushing to the front paying back student loans and just finding our footing in a career. As a result, it can create a “wait until life is perfect” moment to have children which, from my experience, will rarely ever come. In turn, we may see more millennials either having fewer children, or not having any at all. I’m likely in a minority of millennials that will have two children before 30.

It’s likely much too soon to see if we’ll see an echo boom (as millennials were). But as 9,000 millennial women give birth every day, the number of millennial parents is certainly growing, and we’ll certainly see their impact on parenting.

Changes bring about a blog reboot

I started From None to One: A blog about a Generation Y dad over five years ago.

24 years old, a newlywed, recent college graduate, and soon-to-be father to a little boy. I blogged fairly consistently for 3 1/2 years. But life gets in the way and a blog suddenly becomes a drag, rather than a place for thoughts.

Now I’m staring down 30. Not a newlywed anymore, but entering my seventh year of marriage. Not a recent college graduate–a graduate student now. And I’m not the father to only a little boy, but a preschooler and, in June, a daughter.

It’s time for a reboot. I won’t say it’s starting over, though really, it kind of is, but a new approach to talking about parenting. When I started this blog, I was really one of a handful of millennials I knew with children, and now it seems like we’re sprouting a whole new generation–Generation Z, or Net Gen, or Post Gen, whatever, they’ll figure out their own names. But I feel like more than ever, millennial voices are needed.

I started reading a book last night about raising a daughter. I put it down after five pages because it didn’t speak to me at all as a millennial–or even as a parent.

I’m excited about raising two kids. I’m excited that we can raise both a son and a daughter. But we definitely need to talk about it. And millennials need to be part of the conversation. We’re raising our own kids now. The books that have been popular for years no longer speak to us the way they may have spoken to other generations.

So yes, it’s a reboot. It’s also a chance to talk again. And it’s time for that.