Zia Hassan

A Better Way To Parent With Technology

These days, almost everyone has the ability to use technology to share your child’s personality with the world.

We can post pictures on Instagram. We can write stories about our child and the funny things they say on Facebook. Mini-conversations written like plays on Twitter. YouTube videos, like the one I made that went viral a few years back, can show a chid’s budding intellect.

Most of the ways in which we use technology around our kids are about putting them on display. And by no means do I mean to discourage this. Those who follow me on Instagram know that I am a ferocious poster of my child’s day to day activities. I can’t help it. I’m obsessed.

And of course, there are many parents who’d rather not share their kid’s life on social media. It’s probably the psychologically healthier option, if I’m being honest.

But people will say to me sometimes, “Don’t you worry that using technology as you parent will cause you to miss out on what’s actually happening in front of that phone camera?”

And yes, I do worry about that. And to be sure, when I take a picture of my child, I see an imprint of him in my phone. When I look at my child, there’s still an imprint, it’s just that I’m using the lens of my eye rather than the lens of my iPhone. It’s not as different as we might think. But it does take me away from being the same present moment as my child, and for that, I resent the way that social media has hooked us.

But back to the question of technology. I have an idea of what I aspire to do eventually when it comes to tech and my kid. And while I am as active as anyone with the baby pics on Instagram, I do not want to be a parent who sits on a park bench looking looking through their phone as their kid plays. So, instead, the conscious choice to make is between using technology as entertainment, or using it to automate the boring stuff, so that you can focus on being present when it matters.

I have a shortcut on my phone (using the Apple Shortcuts app) that auto schedules drop off and pick up times for daycare on the baby related calendar I share with my wife. I also have one that takes a picture of his artwork from daycare and stores it in Evernote, along with his daily reports.

Another automation allows me to use the Amazon Echo to, in one voice command, turn the lights off in my son’s room and simultaneously turning on the white noise machine and humidifier.

And another shortcut on my phone automatically pays my son’s weekly daycare bill and texts my wife to let her know that it’s been done.

These are all processes that take cognitive energy. That could potentially make it so I spend less time playing with my son and more time doing administrative work around his existence. But technology can solve so many of these problems in much less time, leaving me with the space to just be in the present moment. It’s just that today’s technology also has all that other stuff that can pull me out of the present moment.

Ramping up the useful automation while turning down the need to post another picture could be the way forward.