by Angela and Andrew McGillivray
As we’re writing this, we’re sitting in our backyard with a baby monitor next to us. It’s an “iLife Smart” video monitor which “let[s] you watch and talk to your toddler in real-time with long-range up to 900ft,” according to its Amazon description. This device allows us to remain attentive to the needs of our two-and-a-half-year-old son, Oliver, while simultaneously enjoying the summer weather in the garden and getting some work done outside during evenings.
New media weaves its way in and out of our daily lives, and it can be both a help and a hindrance. In the morning, we might have to tell Oliver “no” when he asks to watch television before we leave for daycare—and then we pop his Mickey Mouse or PAW Patrol waffle in the toaster for breakfast (before daycare eats his favourite cartoon characters rather than watching them on the screen). While working from home, we hear the “ding” of Angela’s phone notifications randomly throughout the day, letting us know that his daycare teachers have uploaded an image or a note to the “HiMama” app she’s downloaded. We often let Oliver use the “iPad mini” while we make dinner, and he might end up playing one of his educational games, scrolling through photos and videos of himself, or watching a Netflix or Disney+ show. After dinner we may initiate a video call because Oliver spots one of our phones and asks to “FaceTime grandma and grandpa.”
Growing up digitally is Oliver’s reality. Instead of fretting over the amount of screen time he is exposed to and worrying about the dangers of technology on his young brain, we are trying to accept this reality and be aware of how it will shape his experiences and his identity. We’ll concentrate on teaching him media literacy, critical thinking skills, moderation, and how to be a good digital citizen—until the tables turn and his knowledge surpasses our own.
Andrew and Angela McGillivray are parents to a young son, Oliver. Andrew is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Rhetoric & Communications at the University of Winnipeg. Angela completed an MA in Cultural Studies at the University of Winnipeg, where she now works as a Department Assistant for Women’s and Gender Studies, Classics, Philosophy, and Disability Studies. In their P/I/K chapter, “Parents, Technicians, Curators: Shrinking Space and Time in Early Parenthood,” they evaluate the effects of space- and time-binding technologies on their young son’s development, identity, and experience of the world, as well as these technologies’ effects on themselves as parents.