Digital Parenting: Battle of the Gadgets

digital parenting

The Digital Parenting Divide

Technology helps us in many ways, but it can also hurt us. Ask a parent what they think of their toddler’s–or fast forward, their teen’s–use of cell phones or tablets and you’re sure to spark a controversial debate. Are these devices helping our children learn faster or are they limiting their social skills? Or both? As with most things in life, our home has found a balance.

Before I explain more about how we manage our toddler’s tech time, let’s acknowledge that computers will be part of every child’s schoolwork and career. Many private (and public) schools provide an iPad or computer in the first grade—or not long after. Computers and other mobile devices come with a responsibility, which is great to instill at a young age!

toddler tech

Asher’s recent 3-year-old portraits featured our iPad.

I try to take advantage of every positive opportunity our smartphones and computers have available for young minds. We have an ABC subscription and easily access phonics videos on YouTube.

Our ‘digital parenting’ style is not overly rigid, but some things must be enforced. For a bit of balance, we’ve established no-tech times while we have the parental control over our toddler’s access to devices:

  • No devices between lunchtime and naptime
  • No digital after dinner

Our son probably gets about one cumulative hour of tech time per day. With the exception of an occasional Disney movie or live surfing contest in the evening with Mom and Dad. By limiting our toddler’s screen time, we hope he gets the educational benefit and the cognitive development of ‘old school’ flash cards and other activities, like playing with stickers or a Polaroid camera. Check out our earlier post on creative non-digital gifts for toddlers. Plus, for birthdays and holidays, I encourage him to handwrite thank you and holiday cards.

Although it seems like parents will eventually surrender to the Gadget Battle, for now we try to use it as a bargaining chip. It is much easier to offer five minutes on an iPad and avoid a 30-minute meltdown. (Don’t let our little one know this!)

Curious how you answer a question that is still a few years off for us: How old will your child be when they get a mobile phone?

Modern Working Mom

work at home mom

Parents today have more digital shortcuts and tools than ever before, but do you really need to rely on your smartphone? Modern working mothers, like myself, have our own routines and support systems. Whether you work from home or your job offers a flexible schedule out of the home, balancing professional and familial responsibilities is an art.

work life balance

How do you juggle priorities, keep little ones happy and healthy, plus take care of yourself? I’m one of those individuals who feels guilty for pleasure reading. I always feel like I should be productive and contributing to my home and work. Here are a few (mostly low-tech) ways I’ve been able to make days more fluid, less stressful, and manage to get it all done:

  1. Handwritten lists. Yes, there are plenty of apps for organizing tasks, but I prefer to rely on handwritten lists. Reminders and tasks with pen and paper are familiar to me, and they also keep me away from further distractions on digital devices. How many times have you gone to your phone for one thing and found yourself scrolling and replying to emails 20 minutes later? As a last resort, if I don’t have any hard copy note-taking supplies with me I will text myself a note. I’ll be sure to see it later in the day since I clear out all my personal texts daily!
  2. Routine for all. Although common and simple, picking out our clothes the night before helps the next day run smoothly. My toddler has an outfit for the day, one for naptime, and others dependent upon his activities. Having those lined up and ready when we need them moves the day along. Many parents are overwhelmed with keeping a clean house and get distracted by straightening up. Now that my son is three, he’s much more independent and his nap times are shrinking. As he has grown responsible enough to clean up his toys, I use that time to start dinner or basic household clean up. While he finishes his meal, we wipe down the kitchen counters and load the dishwasher. Together we do laundry and he learns color sorting and basic measuring. No big cleaning time is taken away from our day when we piecemeal it throughout our normal routine and the bonus is the learning included along the way!
  3. Autopilot. Of course, the trick is to stay with your routine! I do rely on technology in this way. Our neighborhood grocery store Harris Teeter offers online shopping. This allows me to shop from my phone or computer and set a pickup time. I can pick up the groceries after a meeting and not have to make two separate trips—plus avoid food shopping with a toddler, which could eat up a lot of time! I also love Amazon Prime Subscribe and Save and newest addition, Pantry. Their subscription service offers reduced prices and lets me set dates when our items are automatically re-ordered and dropped at our doorstep. Huge help and it is often much less expensive then me walking into any large retailer…with or without a list!

Baby Gadgets: High-Tech Toddlers

While raising a baby hasn’t gotten any easier, technology advancements have created a few benefits for modern parents. Take a look at some of the things that modern moms can take advantage of:

It's A High Tech World!

New moms soon learn what an involved process it can be just getting your little tyke to eat. If you’re like me and enjoy cooking, you’ve probably thought about making your own baby food before. Not only can you make it as healthy as possible with fewer preservatives, but you can whip something up that is specialized for your baby’s dietary requirements and their preferences.

However, since an infant’s immune system isn’t as strong as an adults, you have to be even more cautious about ingredients, cooking methods, and proper storing. While there are tons of great websites for recipes, how can you remember when the food was prepared? The DaysAgo Digital Refrigerator Timer is a little stick-on timer that you can put directly onto jars/food storage containers that keep track of how many storage days. They are multifunctional too. You can stick one on a fish bowl to remind yourself how many days since the last tank cleaning, or place it on plants to remember when they were last watered. (Or as my toddler says, “Fed.”)

Sometimes you can’t always rely strictly on the timers for food, like when you’re traveling or if the food containers outnumber the quantity of timers. As a backup there is the Food Expiration Date Alarm app available on smartphones. You can use this app to log and monitor all your food in the fridge as well, so you don’t have to be the guinea pig when trying to figure out if the milk has gone bad.

toddler apps

     Many apps today can help manage toddler-related tasks.

Besides the food alarm apps, there are some other inventions that have made traveling with a baby much less daunting than before. Looking for a modern stroller for baby travel? 4Moms Origami Stroller opens and closes automatically, has an LCD screen to monitor your baby from any angle, a power charging station for your phone, lights to guide your way at night, and a display on the back top, so you can check the weather, track your speed, and see how far you’ve traveled.

When you’re somewhere new your baby may be fussier than usual without the comfort of their toys and crib. The rockaRoo Baby Rocker is designed to go with you when you travel, so your baby has a familiar place to rest their head. This isn’t an ordinary rocker. You can connect it to your smartphone to control the motions, check your baby’s position, and change the speed.

There are also little products that may help alleviate some of the stress of everyday parenting tasks. While you’re unlikely to ever get a lot of sleep with a baby or toddler, when your child gets sick, you’ll be running on fumes. If your little one is under the weather, there’s no longer a need to wake a cranky baby with a pacifier thermometer! With a more modern thermometer such as San Sero’s you can scan your baby’s forehead while they rest. They can keep napping and you can catch some much needed Zs too.

The one task that everyone wishes modern technology would take care of is probably changing diapers. While it doesn’t get much better than a smell-stifling Diaper Genie, another saving grace for a sick or fussy baby is a diaper warmer. It may not seem as high-tech, but a warm (dry) tush can soothe the crankiest of babies and toddlers. There’s also word of a “smart diaper” in the works. Complete with a microchip, they can monitor when your baby is wet or cold, and they will even send a urine analysis report to your smart phone that can check for UTIs, tell you if your baby is dehydrated, and monitor kidney function.

I’m always interested in hearing what you’ve discovered! What other new gadgets have you found that have made motherhood a little easier?