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Singapore Government

Speech at Singapore Parenting Congress 2014

Speech at Singapore Parenting Congress 2014

Mr Ching Wei Hong, Chairman, Families for Life Council 

Ms Sandra Chan, Vice President, Corporate Services, Radio Division 

Ladies and Gentlemen 

Good afternoon 

I would like to thank the organisers of the Singapore Parenting Congress. Thank you for your efforts in putting together the Congress with the topic “Connecting with Digital Teens and Tweens” that is close to many parents’ hearts. 

Do you remember the first time when you were allowed to go to the playground without any adults? Your parents would have given you some simple rules – Be kind to others, no fighting and no talking to strangers. They were probably secretly observing you from afar to ensure your safety. 

Today, the Internet is the new playground for our children. They get online1 to play games, make friends, discuss homework and look for information. It could bring them the joy of discovering different worlds, or they could face dejection from cyber bullying, or be exposed to unhealthy content like pornography. It has become more difficult for us to protect our children from afar, like how our parents once did. 

Therefore it remains all the more important to educate our children on the proper use of the Internet and technology. In fact, we can engage the online world together with our children, and show them how to make technology work for them, instead of against them. For instance, we can make use of technology to stay in touch and get closer as a family. 

Many of us have formed WhatsApp or Facebook family groups to communicate with family members here and in different parts of the world. We feel closer because we can share our thoughts and feelings almost instant. Technology bridges distances. We don’t have to be physically next to each other to know what is happening in their daily lives. With a simple post, we can experience vicariously what they eat, shop or play.  

Technology can also ease the parenting journey for modern and busy parents. Many parents are forming their own online ‘kampungs’ to share parenting tips. They also actively use online resources. I am delighted that new online tool ‘Conflict Style Preference Inventory’ (or COSPI) will help parents better understand their parenting style. This knowledge would equip them with the strategy and tips to handle and manage conflicts. 

While technology has many benefits, it is no substitute for face-to-face contact. These days, it is common to see a family having dinner together, yet everyone is occupied with their electronic gadgets and hardly interacting with one another. This can be worrisome. For young families, face-to-face interactions form the building blocks of a child’s emotional, social, and cognitive growth. For teenagers and young adults, the family is key in shaping their character. This shaping takes place when family members interact with each other over a drink or a meal, at work or play, during the routine tasks of daily life or on a delightful holiday. 

As a mother with 2 young boys, I know the temptation of using the iPad as a convenient babysitter. The challenge for many of us, parents, is how to make technology work for our relationships versus letting technology disrupt our family ties. We cannot run away from technology but can counter-balance its distractions. For example, I turn to the power of writing letters. When I can’t be home to tuck my sons into bed, I write them short love notes to read when they are awake.
 
Indeed parenting has become more complex, so I am very heartened to know that the majority of parents in a survey last year indicated they were satisfied with their family life and relationship with their children2. 86% of parents with children aged 7-18 years old surveyed were satisfied with their relationship with their children, and 85% were satisfied with their family life. 93% of the parents surveyed regarded “being a good parent” as an important life goal. 

Despite fears of a digital divide or its distractions, we can make technology work for us by engaging with our children online, as well as offline. WhatsApp family chat groups, Facebook updates and up-to-date Instagrams keep us in the know and bring us closer. However, fundamental parenting skills are still important. When we augment these online connections with daily face-to-face interactions, we can create strong bonds with our techno-savvy children and be part of their digital world. I think we’re all finding our way to achieving a good balance between our digital lives and the need for other types of interactions to build a healthy family. Our key speaker Scott Steinberg will share his insights on how to stay connected in the high tech world, and yet ensure good family time. 

Last but not least, I would like to thank the organisers of the Singapore Parenting Congress for putting today’s event successfully together. I wish you all a fruitful afternoon on your learning journey to an enriching family life. 

Thank you.

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1 According to IDA survey, among children and teens aged 7 to 14 years, almost half of them use the Internet at least once a day. This increases to 82% for those aged 15 to 24 years. Source: https://www.imda.gov.sg/infocomm-media-landscape/research-and-statistics/infocomm-usage-households-and-individuals#5

2 MSF conducted the Survey on State of Family Life Education (FLE) in Singapore in 2013. 30% of the 2,005 respondents were parents with children aged 7-18 years old.

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