Digital Dads: changing roles for modern times

shutterstock-dadmumkidworking.jpgTechnology has changed the world in the last few decades - so how do dads best encourage and protect their children in the online environment? Guest blogger HAN-SON LEE of DaddiLife offers some tips. 

The digital age has ushered in a host of changes across our lives; some for the better, and some arguably for the worse.

While many of us have become wrapped up in smart technology and the ability to access our favourite social media posts while out and about, we also need to consider how this transformation is impacting our role as fathers.

Let's take a quick look at how the rise of digital services are changing the ways in which families function. We will then highlight several tips that allow fathers to become masters of their digital domain for the better of themselves as parents, and the good of their children.

Digital is everywhere

We’re all aware of the benefits associated with the digital age. Fathers can access important information (such as the symptoms of an illness) in ways that felt unimaginable before. Other windfalls include the ability to communicate with our children while away from home, and to use “smart technology" to monitor our sleeping babies.

Still, the potential negatives are just as formidable. Some of the most prominent consequences include:

  • Fathers who spend more time within the digital domain than with their children.
  • Children who might become "addicted" to such technology.
  • Relying entirely too much upon the digital world for comfort, help and advice.

In fact in an age of e-safety there are even more stark risks:Digital_Resilience_Visuals-16.png

According to the NSPCC one in three children are internet users, and one in five 8 to 11 year olds and seven in ten 12 to 15 year olds has a social media profile. A significant number report to have had a negative experience online and one in four has experienced something upsetting on a social media site.

With such stats, it’s easy to instinctively think that banning everything is answer, but it really isn’t. Banning the children from the internet is simply unworkable, and as much of their future will have the internet connected to it, it’s vital we don’t ban. (Infographic by: DaddiLife.com)

What we can do though is start to find better ways to educate and empower. Having the knowledge of the risks, and the tactics to arm your children.

You can read more detail on these e-safety risks here. But an important question remains to this all - How can dads use these very same tools to their benefit as parents? Here’s our 5 key areas of focus.

1. The Power of Presence

Have you ever been to a restaurant only to notice that a nearby couple prefers the solace of their smartphones over interpersonal conversation? A recent article by The Huffington Post points out that many dads spend more time checking the latest football scores than they do with children.
Might you fall into this category? Ask your spouse, significant other, or even your friends for their honest opinion if you are unsure. After all, the first step towards correcting a problem is realising that it exists. Never forget that your child will interpret your actions literally. If you are addicted to a device, he or she will take it personally.

2. Apps are great but don’t forget real life learnings

There are a large number of handy apps specifically designed for new fathers - from programs that mimic a "hushing" sound to calm a crying infant to instant dad advice to take you through the ropes, the possibilities are nearly limitless. As great as these apps are, we need to remember that no single piece of technology can replicate, or teach, the sort of sage advice that real human experience can offer. Even those new dad books you got during pregnancy will have some real life advice and help that you can action as a dad even quicker, and arguably even better.

3. Empower Their Education

As the number of stay-at-home dads continues to rise, they are playing a pivotal role in the daily education of their children. It is your job as a father to foster the proper education so that your child will reap these rewards for life. Thankfully, you no longer have to "go it alone". There are many educational apps that will allow you to keep track of your child's class participation, help in the key skills needed, and help manage overall performance. In fact, a 2014 study conducted by Stanford University found that technology that prompted parents to engage in literacy activities with their children had huge beneficial effects that could be seen as early as during the preschool years.

4. Don't Throw Away Instant Messaging Just Yet

There are be times when I know I won’t be able to return from work until the children are already in bed. Although I might not be able to talk on the phone, I never forget that the power of a simple text message such as "I love you" or "How has the day been today?" can go a long way. The digital age makes quick gestures very easy, and will help illustrate that you are thinking about your children even while out of sight. Even if you are dealing with an infant, send across a smiling selfie. They will quickly recognise your image and such interactions can work wonders.

5. Child-Friendly Games and Activities

If you are lucky enough, you might still remember the sensations of fun and excitement when playing a board game with your parents at an early age. Why not download a digital game that you and your child can play together? This needs to be balanced time of course, but it has been found that playing video games may actually have a positive impact on the learning of the children! There is nothing wrong with adopting this approach, just be sure that it is mixed with physical activities such as sports, reading, and other outdoor activities.

As a father, you can easily incorporate these digital suggestions into your current "box of tricks". Always remember that the actions taken today will have a lasting impact upon your little one well into the future.

Han-Son Lee runs DaddiLife – a parenting website for dads featuring a range of advice, tips and stories covering modern fatherhood, health, lifestyle and much more. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.