June 7, 2019
As a technology journalist and a dad to an almost 3 year-old boy, I’m amazed at how quickly my son has adopted the gadgets in our lives. He’s already mastered the On/Off button on the TV remote, tapping and swiping on the iPhone is now second nature and he’s even partial to the occasional conversation with Siri.
While this makes for an amusing interlude when friends come over, I’m also constantly weighing up how much tech I should bring into my home, not to mention when it’s appropriate to introduce my son to it. It’s a question I’m sure most parents now face with a certain amount of trepidation. But rather than let the fear rule, I’ve spent the past 30-odd months tackling the uncertainties of technology head on, finding ways to use the gadgets at my disposal to connect with my son. What I’ve found is that, used in the right way, the digital innovations appearing all around us can support me in being the best dad I can, rather than interrupting or distracting us from what really matters – building our relationship.
Here are a handful of ways I’ve used technology to get closer to my son.
Minding the Gaps
Like plenty of parents who work, sometimes I have to be up and out of the house before my son wakes up. It doesn’t help that my son is also a late sleeper, often snoring until 8 a.m. (except on weekends, of course, when he wakes up at 5 a.m.!). I hate the idea that we don’t get to see each other in the morning, particularly if I also know I’m likely to be home late the same evening.
To explain why I’m not there pouring the milk in his cereal, I use our family iPad to record a morning video message for him to watch while he spoons his breakfast all over the kitchen floor. I get creative with the messages, sometimes bringing in guest stars from his toy box, but it never takes more than two minutes of my morning to leave something behind that I know will make his. It’s a great surprise for him that says “Daddy thought about me before he left.”
Always Time for Storytime
If I’m traveling for work, it’s easy for me to record a quick audio or video, reading one of my son’s favorite stories. Or even better, to use FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangouts to read it live to him from afar. Reading to children is one of the biggest investments we can make, and I hate missing this part of the day as much as he does. When we use video, rather than feeling my absence and becoming upset when I’m not there, my son actually looks forward to these occasions because the experience is different, and therefore more exciting, than the one he always has when I’m in the room. It’s just a different way to keep the daily routine going.
Baby Monitor vs the Work-Away Blues
Having a WiFi camera in a child’s room is a bit of a no-brainer. After all, it makes perfect sense as a way to ensure they’re happy and safe during the night. However, I find it really comes in handy and improves my relationship with my son, when I’m away.
Being away from the family on business can often be glamorized, but being away from the family for days on end can take an emotional toll. To help me over the lonelier moments, I sometimes just need to see him, to feel connected, and so I use this technology for me, not just for him. He’s still not 100 percent sure what ‘that thing on the wall’ is, but it gives me comfort to know that he’s happy and warm.