Back to the future

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In honour of last week being the date that Marty McFly went into the future, we watched the triology of the Back to the Future movies with our kids.

The predictions made with what technology we would have embraced by now were a mixed bag. We don’t have hover boards or flying cars, we do have drone cameras but we certainly don’t have faxes in every room of our house – this technology that was deemed cutting edge in the 1980s is now redundant.

Back in the 1980s, little did they know that we would all walk around with smart phones so that all the information in the world would be available at our fingertips or that we could be in contact with all our cyber friends around the clock.

Our kids are growing up overloaded with information. They will never experience the effort required to complete an assignment by going to the library, finding an encyclopedia and researching information from a book.

I have noticed a correlation between the amount of time our kids spend on technology and a sense of lethargy as well as a decline in their behaviour. A few weeks ago my husband ‘forced’ our son to go for a bike ride with him. Our son whined about wanting to just relax and watch tv and was adamant that he didn’t want to go riding. The more he lay around doing nothing, the more his behaviour deteriorated. Eventually my husband told him that he didn’t have a choice and within a few minutes of them riding together, our son had broken free of his foul mood and was enjoying doing exercise outside in the fresh air.

As much as technology is enriching our lives, it is also trapping us by keeping us glued to screens when we could be doing things that are more productive.

I wonder what technology will be adopted in the next thirty years and whether future generations will adapt to have stooped necks and calloused fingers from continual use of their phones?

What’s your prediction?

(Photo courtesy of kdshutterman, freedigitalphotos.net)

Quality over quantity

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Our teenagers are growing up in a world quite different to the one that we encountered at the same age. With the invention of social media, I’ve seen the worrying trend of my teenage daughters and their friends, judging their worth based upon the number of ‘friends’/followers that they have on social media. They are constantly assessing whether photos or comments posted are rating well, expecting them to reach an acceptable level of likes in a certain amount of time. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself! As if being a teenager isn’t already fraught with insecurity, imagine getting instant results on how popular or likeable your posts are.

I once saw a girl on social media comment that a selfy with a sarcastic comment about her looks had got minimal likes while a picture of pizza had scored more highly. I commented to the girl that her perception was a bit skewed. If lots of people liked the photo where she basically called herself ugly then she would have thought that they agreed with her. I told her that obviously her friends wouldn’t agree with that comment, therefore wouldn’t have liked it, while everyone loves a good slice of pizza!

One of the incentives to have a large number of followers on social media seems to be the associated perks. My daughter’s friend has around 15,000 followers and is constantly being sent free clothing and merchandise, being asked to tag the retailers in her photos. As is to be expected, where there is love there is hate. Whilst the majority of people like her and are positive, there are the haters that are rude and mean in their comments. No person wants to hear cruel words aimed at them, particularly for doing something as mundane as posting a photo.

I’ve always told my kids to only accept requests on social media from people who are their friends. I think a good litmus test is to ask yourself whether you would cross the street to talk to a person – if you would, then accept their friendship request, if not then why would you want to invite them into your personal world? Unfortunately, although these are my beliefs, teens have a different perception. Their worth is linked to the number of followers, and in turn the number of likes their posts receive, so whether their mother has lectured them on safety in social media, they are more concerned with perceived popularity than cyber safety.

As a parent you can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to changing technology, but rather you should try to embrace it. I’m an advocate of having your kids as friends on social media and having their log in details (although I’m not that naïve to know that if they choose to have privacy as they get older, it won’t take them much to change their passwords or block a parent). I don’t have any definitive answers as to what we can do to make sure our kids cherish their real friends and put less emphasis on social media, but I’m monitoring the kids to try to keep them safe and to try to let them know that a person’s worth can’t be accounted for by the number of likes on a photo.

Do you have any advice on managing social media?

(Image courtesy of master isolated images, freedigitalphotos.net)

Final Exams

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Nerves, trepidation and anxiety are all hallmarks of the students who have finished their senior schooling and are now faced with their final exams.

As my eldest daughter sits her HSC (Higher School Certificate) I’m filled with pride at her tenacity but also worry about the pressure she is putting on herself to do well, which in all fairness is probably a manifestation of all the expectations her teachers, family, friends and peers have all put on her.

She told me that given her timetable, with her four hardest exams in the first three days, she worries that she can’t live up to everyone’s standards. Her head is swimming with information that realistically is probably irrelevant for her in the future.

As I’ve said to her time and again, as long as she tries her hardest, she can be proud of her effort.

What has surprised me is how exhausted she is from sitting her exams. She is truly fatigued from trying to remember and recall so much information.

There is so much weight given to these last exams, but they are not the be all and end all of the life she is planning. Even if she bombs out in these exams, there will be ways forward either through further education or work experience. Life has a way of working things out.

As each exam passes she gains relief by throwing out all her study notes and practice essays for that subject. It’s like a visual representation of the weight being lifted from her shoulders.

This time in three weeks she will be free of her exams and will have a chance to let down her hair and party. When she is at her most stressed I keep reminding her that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I remember being in her shoes and also stressing beyond belief but when I received my results it seemed an anticlimax because by then I had the clarity to realise that your results don’t define you nor do they limit your potential. Life is what you make it!

(Image courtesy of inus12345, freedigitalphotos.net)

New Parent

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Becoming a new parent is an exciting (and of course tiring) time in your life, however it can also be a time of feeling isolated.

I remember after my first child, once the frenzy of well-wishers had come to visit the baby, there was a lull in adult company. I knew people were respecting the fact that I needed to rest when the baby slept and that it was hard for them to know when that would be, but all the same I remember feeling very alone. I was also overwhelmed by the changes in my life – the responsibility for caring for a child 24 hours a day, a lack of sleep and the changes in hormones as my body adjusted from being pregnant into being a full-time milk bar.

Having moved house a few weeks prior to having the baby, I didn’t have any friends nearby and my old friends were not at the same stage in life, so they were busy with work commitments. I remember when my husband went back to work that I felt a bit lost. I could go all day without any adult conversation. Of course, I was besotted with our new baby, but I also felt that I had little purpose beyond caring for our daughter.

Being a first time parent, I was keen to ensure my baby was in a routine and so my life revolved around a strict regime that I inflicted upon myself. I also lacked the confidence to know that my baby would be okay unattended in her cot while I got on with chores – I would even take her into the bathroom with me when I showered, so I could keep an eye on her.

With experience came confidence to start going out and when I joined a mother’s group, I found a supportive network of new friends who were experiencing the same issues with their babies as I was with mine.

I laugh at the contrast of my first time parenting experience with that of my fourth child. My youngest child’s routine was to sleep in the car as I ferried his older sisters to and from school. He adapted to the family routine and I no longer feared leaving my baby unattended in the cot for a small amount of time to do chores. Furthermore, I no longer isolated myself at home, instead I continued with the social commitments for my other kids and to be frank I didn’t have time to feel lonely when surrounded by friends and our combined hoard of kids.

What did you find the hardest adjustment to being a new parent?

(Image courtesy of Danillo Razzuti, freedigitalphotos.net)