How Technology Has Changed Modern Parenting

Par­ent­ing has changed dras­ti­cal­ly over the last few decades as tech­nol­o­gy has increas­ing­ly become part of every­day life. Thir­ty years ago, par­ents had to help their chil­dren nav­i­gate the com­plex­i­ties of inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships, but the major­i­ty of those rela­tion­al dynam­ics hap­pened face to face. Today’s par­ents must also fac­tor in how tech­nol­o­gy impacts the way chil­dren inter­act and communicate.

While some aspects of par­ent­ing have arguably become eas­i­er as a result of tech­no­log­i­cal advances, new chal­lenges have arisen as well. Here are a few pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives about this brave new world of mod­ern par­ent­ing. Let’s start with the good news of par­ent­ing and technology.

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The Positives

More information and support

The Inter­net is a wealth of infor­ma­tion. From the lead­ing par­ent­ing experts to aggre­gat­ed social infor­ma­tion and forums, par­ents have nev­er had more sup­port and resources that are read­i­ly and freely avail­able, twen­ty-four hours a day. 

Com­mon sense dic­tates that each par­ent must fil­ter advice and infor­ma­tion through their own belief sys­tem and house­hold rules. It can be extreme­ly help­ful, how­ev­er, to have a wide net­work of sup­port through online par­ent­ing groups and forums as issues with chil­dren arise.

Activity is easier to track

Con­nect­ed devices have made it much eas­i­er for par­ents to keep an eye on their chil­dren. From video baby mon­i­tors to GPS-enabled smart­watch­es and smart­phone track­ing apps, par­ents can have more peace of mind than ever before that their chil­dren are safe.

Tech­nol­o­gy con­tin­ues to evolve and the Inter­net of Things” (IoT) brings even more con­nect­ed devices to house­holds. In tan­dem, com­pa­nies con­tin­ue to pro­vide addi­tion­al parental con­trols (and improve exist­ing con­trols) to make it even eas­i­er for par­ents to ensure their chil­dren are safe — both in their phys­i­cal loca­tion and in their online activities.

It’s easier to capture and share memories

The days of car­ry­ing roll after roll of film to the store to get devel­oped are over. When a roll of film could only prof­fer a cou­ple of dozen pho­tos, we were much more judi­cious about the mem­o­ries we chose to cap­ture. Today, near­ly every­one has a high-qual­i­ty cam­era and video equip­ment in their purse or back pock­et. Smart­phone cam­eras con­tin­ue to become more sophis­ti­cat­ed with each new release.

It’s incred­i­bly impor­tant to live in the moment with your chil­dren, instead of liv­ing life behind your smart­phone screen. It’s also a won­der­ful thing to be able to snap a pho­to of your sweet­ly sleep­ing baby or the first time your tod­dler kicks a soc­cer goal. Just a few decades ago, it used to be a lux­u­ry to own a video cam­era. Today, video clips are just a screen unlock” away. 

Just as pow­er­ful as acces­si­bil­i­ty to mod­ern cam­era equip­ment is the abil­i­ty to share videos and pho­tos with fam­i­ly and friends. Thanks to the wide­spread avail­abil­i­ty of cloud stor­age and its wide­ly avail­able pho­to-shar­ing apps, you can save, edit, and share entire albums with ser­vices like Google Pho­tos and the Apple Pho­tos” app.

The Negatives

Now that we’ve explored some of the many ben­e­fits of tech­nol­o­gy on mod­ern par­ent­ing, let’s take a clos­er look at the poten­tial negatives.

The impact of social media

We just dis­cussed how fun and sim­ple it can be to cap­ture and share some of life’s most pre­cious moments. A word of cau­tion, how­ev­er: just because it’s easy to share the things our kids do, doesn’t mean we should. Take care to pro­tect your child’s dig­i­tal foot­print and think twice about who and what you share when it comes to your children. 

When used prop­er­ly and with your child’s safe­ty in mind, social media offers many ben­e­fits. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, when it’s mis­used, social media presents the poten­tial for a seri­ous neg­a­tive impact for you and your child.

Social media is a hotbed of com­par­i­son. We tend to put our best foot for­ward in our online per­sonas. We show the best aspects of our lives and care­ful­ly curate an envi­ous high­light reel. It can lead to anx­i­ety and a fear of miss­ing out” as we look at the online lives of oth­ers and wor­ry that ours doesn’t compare. 

Friends and fam­i­ly who post about their per­fect chil­dren” may lead us to com­pare our child’s grades, sports per­for­mance, appear­ance and behav­ior to oth­ers, and sub­con­scious­ly project a feel­ing of inad­e­qua­cy on our­selves — and worse — on our children.

The bot­tom line? Be care­ful what you share and with whom, and when you scroll through your social media feeds, remem­ber that you’re like­ly look­ing at an edit­ed ver­sion of someone’s life with­out the bumps and prob­lems that we all expe­ri­ence as parents.

More disconnect within families

The strange con­tra­dic­tion of tech­nol­o­gy is that while it keeps us con­nect­ed, it can also cre­ate a dis­con­nect when it comes to build­ing rela­tion­ships between chil­dren and their parents.

Think about how much time you spend look­ing at your com­put­er or smart­phone. Has that time grad­u­al­ly (or sharply) increased since you bought your first smart­phone? Dis­tract­ed par­ent­ing is a real issue and one that affects even the most vig­i­lant and lov­ing of parents.

Even some­thing as inno­cent and sim­ple as check­ing a text mes­sage while your child is ask­ing you a ques­tion can make them feel unim­por­tant and dete­ri­o­rate trust. If your child feels as if they are com­pet­ing with your smart­phone to get your atten­tion, neg­a­tive habits and behav­iors can soon set in. 

Tech­nol­o­gy has the poten­tial to creep into times that are typ­i­cal­ly devot­ed to build­ing rela­tion­ships. Con­sid­er remov­ing devices from meals, seri­ous con­ver­sa­tions, and fam­i­ly activ­i­ties to remain mind­ful and present.

Screen time and playtime

While qual­i­ty screen time spent on age-appro­pri­ate apps can be ben­e­fi­cial to your child’s devel­op­ment, it requires strict time lim­its and parental con­trols. Excess screen time has been one of the most influ­en­tial (and con­tro­ver­sial) fac­tors in mod­ern par­ent­ing. It is often used as a reward or to pla­cate chil­dren when they are upset. Con­verse­ly, par­ents take screen time away as a pun­ish­ment for misbehavior. 

Keep a healthy bal­ance between screen time and play­time. Phys­i­cal play not only helps devel­op healthy exer­cise habits and phys­i­cal dex­ter­i­ty, but it also helps spur cre­ativ­i­ty and imag­i­na­tive play.

Safety and well being

Before the Inter­net, par­ents were pri­mar­i­ly con­cerned about the phys­i­cal safe­ty of their chil­dren and the lim­it­ed pro­gram­ming they were exposed to on tele­vi­sion and the radio. The Inter­net pos­es an immense num­ber of new safe­ty con­cerns for today’s par­ents, includ­ing cyber­bul­ly­ing, inap­pro­pri­ate con­tent, exces­sive screen time and more.

Take an active role in your child’s online pres­ence. Have con­ver­sa­tions about respon­si­ble dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship ear­ly. Keep an open dia­logue with your child about the dan­gers of preda­to­ry behav­iors or con­tent online. There is no deny­ing that tech­nol­o­gy has changed mod­ern par­ent­ing. It’s up to each par­ent to make sure the changes are pos­i­tive when it comes to the well­be­ing of our children.