Last May 15, 2019, I was invited by Pigeon Philippines to be part of their panel for their event entitled: Safety Alert in the Digital Age. I think this was very timely as we are raising children in a society that’s fast-paced, technology driven and as parents, we need to know how we can best prepare ourselves and at the same time, support our children.
As an advocate for respectful care for infants and toddlers, I often get asked by parents the following questions: 1) I want to support my child’s love for play but how do I keep him safe at home? ; 2) When is the best time to expose my child to gadgets? These questions are very relevant and timely and I’m happy that they were discussed during the event.
The 5 most important things I shared in keeping our infants/and toddlers safe are these:
- Respect your child- understand his uniqueness, what gives him joy
- Provide a safe environment for them
- Be emotionally present
- Aim for engagement, not just entertainment
- Protect your child’s play
During the event, I pointed out what my mentor and infant/toddler specialist, Ruth Anne Hammond, mentioned in her book, Respecting Babies. She said that, “children do not know danger-yet. It’s not part of their thinking yet, but they will eventually learn to develop judgement gradually.” Parents during the event agreed with me when I said that without any warning, mobile infants could easily insert their tiny fingers into the socket or pull each and every cabinet in the kitchen, and they will keep on doing it, again and again, thinking it’s safe. For young children, they are naturally curious, love to explore and to discover- that’s how they play, and believe it or not, that’s how they learn, too. This is why, as parents, we need to provide an environment that’s safe for your child. You need to always be a step ahead of your child.
If we don’t provide an environment that’s safe for your infant, you will definitely grow tired of saying “No” to your child or worst, keep on running after them.
How long can you keep on doing that? I think it’s not sustainable. It seems useless to keep on saying “no” to an infant who finds joy in movement.
Magda Gerber, the founder of RIE® gave us a very practical guideline when safeproofing your home. Magda pointed out this: you will know if your child’s room is safe- when for some reason, you cannot return to your child’s room right away- given that he’s left there all alone, you know that he will be safe in there.
This just means that, your child’s room was designed in such a way that nothing will fall on him, in case he keeps on crawling around, he will not topple over on anything, in case he decides to attempt to cruise, etc.
Think about the different parts of your house (your kitchen, your bathroom, your stairs) and see how you can arrange it in such away that it will support your child’s love for movement. Let the environment set the limit than letting yourself continually restrict and redirect your baby, whose most important job is to explore the world.
My response to the second question: 2) When is the best time to expose my child to gadgets? has always been- DELAY if you can. I emphasized that young children need to be creating, need to be exploring and not just staring into a passive screen. What babies need is a person who is attuned to them- a gadget has no ability to read a child’s emotions. Ruth Anne pointed out that we need children who are engaged, rather than simply entertained (passively).
We, the parents, are the one who should be setting the limit- to ourselves (from giving the gadget instead of engaging with our child). It makes so much sense because we are the ones who have the access to these gadgets and the purchasing power to actually buy them (not the other way around). It’s never easy- but I believe if start doing it one step at a time, we can do it. If our children see that we are consistent (both parents even the caregivers), our children we definitely go on board with us.
One of the things I also emphasized was not just the gadget use of children but also our gadget use as parents. When our children are playing, we need to protect their play by being emotionally present with them. Play with them or observe them. I like what Ruth Anne said, “We are there but not really there. How many times do our children catch us being on our phones rather than being with them?” I am too guilty of this, and it’s always a question I play on my mind and ask myself- I need to set a limit for myself and model well to my children and spouse.
I especially liked what Mr. Art Samaniego Jr, Manila Bulletin’s Technology Editor, pointed out that parents need to be conscious of what they post online. He mentioned that anyone can easily steal information online about you, your child and your family- so think about these things when you travel, etc.
I remember pointing out during the event (in connection to what Mr. Art mentioned) that, we need to remind ourselves to be present with our children whenever we travel with them. I shared that when I travel with my children and family, I take an offline mode from social media. It’s a personal conviction- which some people find quite unusual. It’s not mainly for protection but also because I want to enjoy time with my family. I know myself well that being online can be quite a distraction me (answering emails, replying to inquiries etc.) so I choose to take a break from it all. It’s very liberating 🙂
When I was asked to share my last message to parents during the event, I told them to “Relax and enjoy the wonders of child development. Sometimes we are just too in a hurry to wait for their milestones, to take a photo, to compare, but we lose sight of that moment- of just enjoying where our child is at.”
Thank you Pigeon Philippines for coming up with this event. I am most sure many parents learned from this event. Looking forward to the next one.