What happens when you mash-up the parenting styles of a Norwegian and a Greek mother, and then transfer it to the digital world? Interesting things happen!
Empowering confused parents to be good parents is already quite difficult. What makes a good parent, what are the criteria that need to be fulfilled and who sits on the jury? But being real role models in the digital age is another challenge.
Kids nowadays spend tons of time online, at home, on the bus, when they hang out with friends and even at school as part of the new wave of digital education. And what about the adults? Us? We are equally spending a lot of our time on our laptops or beloved tablets or smartphones.
When trying to figure out how to succeed with the balancing act of parenting a digital teen, tween or toddler – challenges like parental lack of awareness and parental apathy are brought up as central challenges. And it’s true; these are real problems that we hardly pay a closer look at. But as an additional exercise it might prove worthwhile also to engage in some self-reflexive thinking. That’s the hard task to do. We’re good at saying where others fail, because it justifies our approaches.
But to what extent are we, the parents, good role-models in terms of showing when and where it is ok to get absorbed into their device and when to turn off and engage in the physical social context. There is face-time and there is face-to-face time. Our engagement as parents probably has room for improvement. We need to engage in conversations with our kids. One of the main reasons for this is that one size certainly does not fit all. The recipe that worked wonders with one of the kids might fail miserably with the next one. Why? Being siblings might mean that the hair-colour is similar and that the noses has the same curve – personalities however are in our experience wildly differing. Having a simple set of rules works well in some families where kids obey and are disciplined. We firmly believe that by listening more and better to our children is the better approach. Hoping (and praying) that the need for regulating every single step they take online, might evaporate. It could be interesting to have a set of digital tools, a toolbox of useful apps/add-ons that help both us the parents to get rid of our mostly unjustified fear of the potential threats online, but mostly company our kids through their online journeys and explorations. Those tools should help them in navigating safely, but most importantly, help them to develop skills and resilience to master unknown tempests.
Some important issues require us parents to be up to speed in order to be able to help our kids. Not knowing necessarily everything it should still be possible for most of us to discuss for example bullying and sharing inappropriate pictures. Management of personal data and sharing is only a small part of the big picture; as there are also more complicated issues. The blurring between paid and sponsored contents as well as getting tracked are matters that are difficult also for adults to grasp. So who can help the parents?
At the end of the day how are the practical implications of our views on where to draw the lines: restricting activities and content online as opposed to a more open and free internet. Or should we leave our kids alone?
Working with these topics on a daily basis, allows us to reflect and try to implement as best as we can the good advice we hear from researchers, children, parents and other experts.
Interested to learn more? Have a look at what some good researchers have published.