The State of Parenting in the Digital World

digital parenting 2

I remember as a new mom if I had a question, I had many places to go to for advice. I could call my mom, ask friends or consult a billion books. Granted, everyone’s advice was usually a bit different but it tended to coalesce around a guiding principle.

When parenting in the digital world, there are few tried and true methods to fall back on. With digital parenting, advice is all over the map. Ask about Instagram, parents will find answers from your kid should not be on Instagram in the first place to you have no business looking at your kid’s Instagram. With few social norms established and technology changing constantly, parenting online is a challenge.

This week, some of these questions were answered at the Family Online Safety Institute annual conference in Washington, DC. At this conference, parents, teens companies and researchers gathered to share insights on digital parenting. While I was unable to make it to DC, I was able to follow along online through twitter feeds and as well as read the new research on the state of digital parenting from the Family Online Safety Institute, CommonSense Media and iKeepSafe.

I always find it helpful to know how other families are managing technology. These surveys serve to inform my own thinking around my family’s technology use. When my child informs me every kid in his class has a smartphone or everyone is on Instagram, I can respond confidently. I know when most kids have a phone and I am ready to talk about the benefits and challenges to owning a phone.

what parents need to know about digital Parenting 

11.9 is the average age a parent gives their child a smartphone.

This is a little lower age than past studies. I am seeing more kids starting middle school with either a new smartphone or one passed down from an older sibling. Many families are not waiting until high school to move from a feature phone to a smartphone.

11.7 is the average age for letting a child join a Social network.

Parents are allowing kids to join a social network before they required age of 13. In elementary school (ages 6-9), 20% of children are on a social network. In middle school (ages 10-13), 59% of kids are on a social network and by high school (ages 14-17), 92% of teens have a social networking account.

Parents see technology as positive for families

Parents choose to buy their kid’s phones, tablets and laptops because they want their child to participate in the digital world. Most parents believe technology has a positive effect on their child’s future, career and life skills (78%) as well as creativity (64%).

Parents are confident they can manage their family’s use of technology

59% of parents have a high level of confidence in their ability to keep track of their child’s technology use. 81% of parents think they know a lot or most of what their children are doing when using technology or going online.

Parents of teens may be a little over confident

According to teens, parents may not know as much as they think. When CommonSense Media asked teens, less than a third of them say their parents know “a lot” about what they do online, the apps they use, or what they do on social media. In fact, most teens say their parents do not know a lot about the media they use other than what TV shows they watch.

Most parents manage technology by establishing rules

When it comes to managing technology, 87% of parents have rules for their child’s technology use. Many of these rules focus on restricting or limiting access to sites or apps based on age. Most parents have rules around what sites their child can access (79%), what online accounts they can have (77%), what they can post online (75%), what apps they are allowed to download (67%), and how long their child can use technology (65%).

Few parents use parental controls

Only 36% of parents say they use parental controls. Largely, parents feel these controls were unnecessary because they trust their child and/or believe rules are enough. Although, 26% of parents admit they do not use controls because they do not know how to use parental controls or that these controls exist.

Parents are a little less sure about social media

When it comes to social media, parents are not as positive. Almost half (47%) of parents say the harm outweighs the benefit of social media. Once kids branch out beyond Facebook, parents are struggling to keep up.

Overall, parents with young kids are doing well managing technology. Unforunately, those teen years are giving us a headache. In fairness, parenting a teen is not easy in the online or offline world. In the digital world, parents are finding it a challenge to manage multiple devices and mentor teens on new social networks. Although they may not believe it, this is the age where teens need the most support.

To help mentor your teen online, check out these resources.

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  1. Pingback: Family – Should parents use digital devices to educate their children? | My e-Portfolio – Health and Family

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