The Challenge of Parenting in a Digital Age

There are few who would deny that technology is having a huge impact on almost all elements of our lives. It is most definitely having an impact on parenting and is adding a new dimension to an already very challenging role. Many parents we meet through our work at Zeeko are overwhelmed by the pace at which technology is developing, the amount and variety of apps that their children are accessing and how the use of technology at home can be a battleground!

One of the first things that needs to be acknowledged is that technology is here to stay and of course will continue to develop over the coming years. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a strategy in relation to managing the use of technology and time spent online. What this strategy should look like is of course down to your parenting style but here are few examples of things that may be useful.

Do your own research: With the myriad of apps and online games available it can be a challenge to keep up with what your child or teenager is in to. If you hear your child talking about a new app or game do some research on it yourself. This will assist you in having conversations with your child and help you in building your awareness of new developments in the world of apps and games.

Remember to actively mediate with your child: At Zeeko we promote active mediation when it comes to communicating with a child about their use of the internet. Active mediation essentially means ensuring that your child knows it is ok to come to you to talk about what they are experiencing online, without fear that they will be punished. Active mediation is particularly important when it comes to the use of the internet because children and indeed teens can encounter situations such as witnessing a cyberbullying incident while online and will need to feel secure in being able to discuss this with you without fear of sanction.

Try not to confiscate: Parents can often confiscate or ban the use of digital devices as a form of punishment. This is rarely, if ever, effective and in some cases can lead to children using digital devices in other people’s homes or borrowing smartphones from friends to access the internet. It is human nature that if something is banned, it becomes more intriguing!

Encourage and promote a healthy online/offline balance: Ultimately children learn through observation. If you want your child to have a healthy relationship with the digital world then you will need to be a good role model. For example, where screentime is concerned, if you are constantly on a digital device or regularly on screens late at night then it is highly likely that your child will see this as normal and model this behaviour. In a broader sense make sure to regularly engage in family activities that do not include digital devices. Remind your child of the importance of communicating face to face with friends and relatives as opposed to doing so online.

Make staying safe online a regular conversation: At Zeeko we want to make talking about staying safe online an integral part of every Irish school and home. Reminding your child about the importance of protecting themselves when they are online is so important. If conversations are regular and open in relation to online safety this is bound to build confidence and better equip your child for challenges they may encounter in the digital world.

It may be a relatively new concept, but more and more parents are going to need to add a digital element to their parenting style!