By Puja Chandra Nanda:
Baby Boomers, Generation X or Millennials – it doesn’t matter which era of parents we talk about but one constant across generations is how parents worry endlessly about their children. From the time a couple realizes that a baby is on the way, they start looking for sources of information that can allay the fears and insecurities of impending parenthood. But while Baby Boomers and Gen X parents sought advice from their parents and friends, and relied on the family doctor; the Millennials simply Google for information and advice. And Google never lets them down!
According to a survey published on Moms.com, the most-googled parenting questions of 2018 include the likes of: “Will my child be tall?”, “Why does my baby drool so much?”, “How to be a good Parent?” “How to potty train a girl/ a boy?” It’s almost as if Google is pseudo-parenting our children!
Why Do Parents Rely on Google?
It’s Convenient – While you may hesitate to call your own parents or a doctor in the middle of the night to ask why your child keeps screaming in sleep, Google doesn’t mind being disturbed anytime of the day or night. The convenience of being able to Google information on your smartphone on the go anytime is unmatched. You type in half a question and you are rewarded with hundreds of results instantaneously!
It’s Reliable – You can type almost anything under the sun and rest assured that the Google search algorithm will throw up related results. There is virtually nothing that doesn’t elicit a response from Google. Search Engine Optimization features ensure accuracy of results.
It Doesn’t Judge – Google is your confidante! It keeps secrets, doesn’t judge, doesn’t ask questions and does not mind if you don’t follow its advice. You can keep your searches anonymous and ask the most embarrassing questions you dare not pose to your family, friends or even to the doctor. The best part- you can ask the same question a hundred times, without the risk of annoying anyone!
It Gives You Allies – Parenting can be challenging and unnerving. Parents take solace in the fact that others are sailing in the same boat as them. It’s reassuring to parents to know that feeling confused and overwhelmed in the parenting journey is normal.
How is Google Affecting Our Parenting? No other generation of parents has ever had this trove of information at their disposal 24/7. But there is a dark side to this silver lining.
Google is killing Parental Instinct – Parenting was driven by instinct in the pre-Google era. Gen X parents relied on their gut feeling more than information when deciding whether an infant needed an extra feed, a sick child needed to see a doctor or a teenager needed a pep talk. Millennial parenting unfortunately has become mechanical and enslaved to knowledge assimilation, thanks to ubiquitous Google. Instead of letting a mother’s instinct tell us if a crying infant needs to be picked up and soothed, we ask Google how much time should we allow the infant to self-soothe.
Google is undermining Social Ties – In the past, couples talked to each other to decide common grounds of parenting and set home rules together, guided by their own childhood experiences. First time parents looked up to their own parents for advice, making the grandparents feel important. Experienced friends and colleagues offered advice on how to deal with a toddler meltdown or a teenage tantrum. With Google, parents are taking advice from strangers and estranging well -meaning relatives and friends.
Google is replacing Doctor’s Advice – Millennial parents are also relying heavily on Google for medical advice. From the quantum of fever medicine to be given to ways to make your child gain weight; Google is answering health and medical queries. There are obvious risks to self-diagnosis, self- medication and very often parents end up delaying treatment or presume the worst.
More Google = More Worry – Does having all your questions answered at the click of a button, make you a calmer parent? Apparently, no! More than ever before, parents now are losing sleep looking for answers. Being able to Google for answers anytime means that we don’t leave anything to chance. We want to equip ourselves with answers to every challenge that parenting throws up but since the challenges are dynamic and endless, our quest for answers is endless too. A recent Straits Times story documented the fact that questions on Google on “How to help my child… Study, Focus, Poop every day, Read, Cope with anxiety, Sleep better ….?”peaked at 1 am, long after the kids went to bed.
Passing on the Google Baton – My seven year old promptly reminds me to ask Google if I feign ignorance about a subject or genuinely can’t answer his hundredth query of the day. Children are learning that Google can answer anything. As they grow up and have access to personal devices, they are bound to turn more to Google than their parents. Unsurprisingly, the adolescents today are asking Google for advice on sticky subjects such as sex, depression, bullying and suicide amongst others.
While no one can deny the wealth of information that the internet has brought forth, there is an urgent need for exercising caution and common sense. For, when it comes to parenting, Google may have all the answers but parents still know what’s best!