Apps are changing the way we use and treat information in significant ways and it’s a minefield to sort through the ones that are useful to our personal lifestyles and those that aren’t. As with many things, there are gains from using apps, depending on how they are used and the purposes they are used for. Nowhere is this murkier than when we consider natural parenting.
Can apps help with natural parenting? The most popular parenting apps seem to be for keeping tabs on our children, and while I completely understand the need to know where your child is and that he is safe, it worries me that these apps have been accepted by parents worldwide without much debate into the privacy of our children.
Not only do many of these apps track your child’s location, but they also tell you who the child is with, who she is interacting with on social media, whether she is using swear words, and other things. I find it worrying that we can invade our children’s privacy so easily using this new technology, and I am not comfortable with the idea of a computer program tracking my child’s every movement and personal interaction without my consent.
I think children need space to grow and be free of their parents as they get older and that nothing can be gained from me as a parent deciding who my child can spend time with or what words he can use when free of parental presence. There is also an irony here, which is that these apps exist because parents fear sinister motives – yet how sinister would this tracking technology be if it fell into the wrong hands? GPS, which tracks location through a person’s phone, can be turned off by the tech-savvy phone user, but invasions of privacy on social media can’t.
For some natural parents the divide between usefulness and problematic apps is very clear. For example, there is a breastfeeding app that helps a mother time how long she feeds her child for, reminds her which breast she last fed from, and so on. For parents following strict ideas of feeding routines, this could be useful. For feeding-on-demand parents, this would be a definite ‘no’, as it would surely hinder the mother’s instincts, replace confidence with a screen, and be disempowering for the mother by working from the premise that we need to time our breastfeeding. Instead I think we need to trust our children, and this goes for whether they are breastfeeding or out with their friends. If there’s an app for encouraging this, for supporting mothers or encouraging them to follow their instincts, I’d love to hear about that.
On that note, the free WildTime app is great, and I frequently recommend it to other parents as a way of creating fun activities when outdoors that help to engage children and parents with Nature. There are also some excellent, practical apps for when parents are out and about with their children and they need, for example, to find the nearest toilet or engage a child while waiting in a queue by playing an interactive game app with him on the phone.
What do you think about apps? Can they help with parenting? Let us know on the JUNO Facebook page or through Twitter.
Zion Lights is JUNO Contributing Editor and author of The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting, and is currently studying for an MSc. She blogs at Science Mum: From the Soil to the Stars.
Find out about the WildTime app at projectwildthing.com/wildtime.