3 tips for parenting in the AI boom, from a Millennial mom raising a Gen Alpha son

children looking at their phones
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My son is only 7, and already he asks Alexa for the time and weather. He does not check his watch—it sits unused right there on his arm! He doesn’t even look up at one of the many, both analog and digital, clocks in our home. Instead, he asks what  I’ve dubbed the house-robot—our Amazon EchoDot in the kitchen. The very one he learned to use by watching me create grocery lists through voice commands. Have I created this tech-savvy monster? Well not entirely, but it does make me wonder: What can parents do to slow it all down?

Like many others, the recent Apple ad for their latest iPad raised my hackles. As a parent—no, as a human—I can’t watch the decimation of manual tools for art and creativity without  feeling  deflated defeat. A 2019 Brookings Institute study indicated that early exposure to creative arts decreased instances of disciplinary action for young students, increased test scores and improved their compassion for one another. All the benefits I’ve heard and read  about regarding kids and the arts were just squashed by one of the largest global corporations, for sport. Literally.

Parenting each new generation comes with unique challenges—there’s always something vaguely “worrisome.” Yet somehow, despite watching technology advance at a pace unimaginable to our parents or grandparents, I wasn’t expecting this digital onslaught. Influencers. ChatGPT. Self-driving cars. What’s a mom to do? How do we encourage our kids to work hard, do for themselves and use their own creative energy and mental labor to excel when nearly everything in their young lives can be automated, outsourced or generated?

Tips for parenting Gen Alpha tech-savvy kids

As a millennial mom raising a Gen-Alpha son, let me share something you may already know. These kids are scary-good with digital technology. We thought we were really something using LimeWire to burn CDs and spending hours on MySpace. Ha! We’re a technological joke compared to what our children are absorbing and utilizing. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m terrified. I may not have it all figured out but here’s what I’m doing to balance the playing field.

Be intentional with your own tech usage

First, let’s take a good look at how we’re using technology ourselves. Am I using it to cut corners? Save time? Sure. But am I mindful about it? Not always. It might be better to model the idea of creating to-do lists with  pen and paper instead of shouting them across the room at a device—a  device undoubtedly tracking my voice-activated habits and using them to market branded goods right back at me. These are not only actions to model but conversations to have. It’s important to make sure the little eyes watching understand that the use of technology comes with responsibility and, sometimes, a murky exposure of oneself and one’s data.

Make space for unplugging

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or an earth-shattering declaration. It can be as simple as a trip to your local art gallery or museum. A visit to your local library for a free class. A challenge to use whatever you find in the backyard to create anything at all. Is that often harder than letting my kid slap on his Bluetooth wireless headphones, log on to Minecraft and feed pixelated herds of sheep? You bet. But it feels important to intentionally make space for both analog and digital creative output.

Set boundaries for tech usage

Finally, we need to educate ourselves on how and why this technology is being applied and what boundaries we can set. These decisions won’t be the same for every family, as it’s up to each family to decide what’s best for them. Like most aspects of parenting, the parameters are highly variable yet specific to each household. Just like we evaluate  baby food labels, car seat safety standards and dyes and fragrances in detergents, tech usage should also be evaluated carefully.

Maybe I’m being naïve. Maybe my simplistic tactics here won’t do much at all to slow down the tidal wave of technology, and our kids will be swept up in it anyway. But I have to try. There is still value in writing a poem, in coming up with the title yourself—not asking AI to generate it. I think our kids will benefit from going to the sidewalk, picking up the Sunday paper and opening it—even if it’s just to scan the comics. Maybe I’m being old fashioned. Is there any data showing correlation between access to print media and later success in life? I’ll ask Alexa.