Being a parent in the modern world can be a full-time job in itself. With the digital layered on top of that, it can be even more of a challenge. How do you develop a digital parenting style, and is there an ideal one?
What Is “Digital Parenting?”
Digital parenting overlaps with being a parent in real life, but it involves a few different strategies and ideas. For example, you’re probably not going to have your children strap on body cameras and GPS beacons, although you might use phone locator software. But you might install parental controls to monitor what they do and where they go online.
Add to this that as kids grow and become adults, they use the digital world in different ways. Video games and carefully controlled social apps will give way to social networks used by adults and apps related to their job or homework eventually. Managing that transition while protecting their safety is an ever-evolving job. So how do parents make sense of it?
Building The Right Digital Parenting Style
There really is no perfect digital parenting style; it’s going to depend on your family’s needs and how you approach real-world parenting. But there are a few basics you can have in place.
Model good behavior. If your kids see you using screens in a moderate, healthy way, they’ll follow your lead. It also opens the door to discussion of where and when to use screens as they grow up, such as behind the wheel or at work.
Set ground rules that apply to everyone. Kids may not understand all the risks of the internet at first, but they understand “do as I say, not as I do.” Rules that apply to everyone are fairer and easier to enforce. That said, also make clear the reasons behind those rules, so that if you do have to enforce different standards, everyone grasps why.
Use monitoring software and parental controls. Remember, spying is when people don’t know they’re being watched, so make it clear what you’re doing and why. That said, leave the door open to discuss privacy, especially as kids get older, and make sure your family can discuss trust and safety with each other.
Make time to talk, and make sure your children know they can come to you. Much of the time, kids think they’ll be in trouble if they tell you about bullying, stalking, or cruel behavior. If they know they can talk to you, they will, and be sure to ask them what they’re doing online and who with.
Be open to change. Good family rules include mechanisms where kids can come to adults to request more independence, access to different apps, and just to talk about things they experience online.
Give yourself a break. Every parent is figuring out the digital side of parenting as they go along, and there’s always a new app, a new trend, or a new gadget to fit into your parenting approach. Your approach will change over time because it has to.
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