Living in a digital world has changed many aspects of our lives -including the kind of arguments we have with our kids. In days gone by, parents and kids used to argue over chores, curfews and academic performance. Nowadays some of the biggest parenting battles we have are over screen time — how much access to tech should kids have, what should they be doing online and why buying your kid a Wii instead of an Xbox One X or PS4 is a parenting fail.
Like it or not the digital world is a major part of our kids’ lives. According to a 2015 study conducted by Pew Research Center, 92% of teen internet users access online content daily, spending up to nearly 200 minutes online every day! That explains why so many young people have their faces stuck on various screens these days and why social media has such a huge impact on them.
While most parents agree that they need to play an active role in directing their children’s online lives, their approaches differ greatly. Alexandra Samuel, researcher and author of Work Smarter with Social Media, has mapped out 3 distinct digital parenting styles based on data gathered from more than 10,000 North American Parents. She suggests these three types of digital parents: limiters, enablers and mentors.
1. The Limiters
Limiter parents prefer to bring up their kids offline as much as possible and they do their best to limit their screen time. An overwhelming majority of parents practicing this parenting style prefer not to research on new tech, programs and apps to share with their children and they rarely talk with their kids about tech. They also don’t put any effort into investing in their kids’ tech skills.
As a result of being kept out of the digital world, their kids become digital exiles. They lack the knowledge, skills and etiquette to become responsible digital citizens and are unprepared for what the internet holds. In her study, Samuel found that such children are highly likely to develop problematic online behavior including cyberbullying, accessing pornography, impersonating adults online (including their parents) and even engaging in online chats and email exchanges with strangers.
2. The Enablers
Digital limiters and digital enablers are on opposite sides of the digital parenting spectrum. Where limiters place strict controls on their kids’ screen time, enablers place none. They take a relaxed laissez-faire approach to the digital world. While they do recognize that the internet and tech are a huge part of their children’s online lives, they rarely provide guidance in exploring this world. They trust their kids to make their own choices online and leave them to their own accord.
Samuel discovered that nearly 50% of parents with kids’ in high school take the enabler approach. You can imagine what havoc unsupervised teens can get into online and according to Samuel’s study, these kids have the highest likelihood of engaging with strangers online either through chat or email. Other studies have also linked unfettered screen time to teen depression and suicidal behavior.
3. The Mentors
Digital mentors are those who have found a happy middle ground between being digital limiters or enablers. These parents realize the importance of the online world and do their best to mold their kids into responsible digital citizens. Digital mentors are proactive parents who not only enjoy spending time with their kids online but also actively cultivate their children’s digital skills by enrolling them in various tech classes, workshops or camps. They also make a point of researching specific apps, programs or devices so they can understand what they’re all about before introducing them to their kids. Instead of approaching tech and the internet with fear, they choose to make informed decisions.
This parenting approach produces kids who are digital savvy, hence less likely to run into any trouble once they get online. Thanks to their parents’ wisdom and guidance, they have the resources and knowledge on how to use digital tools and how to conduct themselves online.
As a parent, the approach you choose influences the direction your children’s online lives will take. So if you want to rest easy knowing your kids can handle themselves online, choose to guide and mentor them.
Lenhart, A. (April 9, 2015). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/
Average daily time spent online via mobile by internet users in North America as of 1st quarter 2015, by age group (in minutes). Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/433849/daily-time-spent-online-mobile-age-north-america/
SOCIAL MEDIA’S IMPACT ON SELF-ESTEEM & IT’S EFFECTS ON TEENS TODAY – INFOGRAPHIC. Retrieved from https://www.sundancecanyonacademy.com/social-medias-impact-on-self-esteem-its-effects-on-teens-today-infographic/
Samuel, A. (November 12, 2015). What kind of digital parent are you? Retrieved from http://www.alexandrasamuel.com/parenting/what-kind-of-digital-parent-are-you
Digital citizenship: teens being responsible online. Retrieved from http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/digital_citizenship.html