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© 2016 by The Digital Consumer.

  • Mark Ghibril

Parenting in the Digital Age - It’s TIME for ACTION


In a previous post, I mentioned that there are 3 kinds of problems a Digital Consumer experiences:

  1. Simple: like baking a cake from a recipe - few techniques that are repeatable

  2. Complicated : like building a car - multiple people & coordination but repeatable

  3. Complex: like raising a child, always a different approach required.

In this blog I would like to talk about the most complex challenge in our Digital consumer’s life: Parenting.

Parenting has been over centuries instinctively learned by doing, definitely agile and definitely relied mainly on coaching & mentoring from parents and society. In the digital world, parenting has become much bigger and complex; as same type of parenting that worked in the past, in the pure “offline” world, will not work in the “digital” world where parents will be dealing with an integrated physical and virtual world which has less boundaries, less controls, and of course less consistency.

So simply put:

The „Digital Parent” is the most complex job on this planet and people are expected to assume that role and do their best based on instinct, coaching, & mentoring, while most other jobs out there expects experiences, skills and qualifications/certifications from all of us? How can that be.....?

May be there is an acceptance that the parent „job“ has been there for thousands of years, and we think we have mastered it, but in the big data world, data has shown & proven over and over again that we haven’t. The lucky child who is born to the right parents and societal connection will have a decent life; but can we really leave our future generations development up to “luck”???

Research has shown that parents who experience 4 times the same good or bad experience with their parents can have 6 times more effect on their children. Not to forget, the Digital world is not more than 2 decades old and not all of parents has sufficient experience to „mentor“.

So in this blog, I would like to share information from research available around the theories and methods that confirm the link of parenting for child‘s development, the challenges parents experience today in the digital age (both in physical & virtual worlds) and call of action to all governments, societies & of course you as individuals and/or Parents because we need to be coordinately prepared for this challenge which our future generations’ development is relying on.

Parenting & Child Development - What is the Research telling us?

There are huge sources of research, theories and methods, in which scientists, philosophers and physiologists have shared how parents shape their children‘s development.

Clear Associations have been made between parenting &

  • Aggression & Delinquency:

  • The parent child relationship quality have impact on antisocial acts, aggressive & disruptive behaviors, criminality & bullying.

  • Depression & anxiety

  • Parenting quality has been show to have strong impact on depression, anxiety and other social problems.

  • Cognitive & educational outcome

  • Parenting & cognitive abilities have been linked to confirm a child’s motivation, aspirations and cognitive ability.

  • General health and biological development

  • A number of studies have found robust associations between quality of parent – child relationships and high-risk health behaviours, such as smoking, illicit drug and alcohol use.

Research also found that the above applies to interactions & abilities in the physical as well as digital worlds.

Now as I have shown you the impact of parents on child development, what are the suggested approaches so far?

Parenting in Digital Age - What approaches have been proposed so far?

Research has also dug deep into the parenting approaches out there. The best grouping I found is:

Social Learning Approach

  • Social learning theory argues that children’s real-life experiences and exposures directly or indirectly shape behaviour and therefore recommend approaches rewarding child behaviour through attention.

  • If a child receives an immediate reward for their behaviour,such as getting parental attention or approval, then they are likely to do the behaviour again, whereas if they are ignored (or punished), then they are less likely to do it again.

  • Social learning theory shows that this approach allows children to better manage their emotions within themselves and while engaging with others.

  • Of course, as per the previous section, the primary source of these experiences, especially in the first years of development, is the parents.

Attachment Approach

  • Attachment theory proposes that the quality of care provided to the child, particularly sensitivity and responsiveness, leads to a ‘secure’ (optimal) or ‘insecure’ (non- optimal) attachment.

  • Consistent and sensitive care with the parent is therefore expected to lead to the child developing a model for self and others as loveable and loving/helpful.

Parenting style Approach Parenting style theory argues that there are 4 parenting style types/classification and each of these styles might lead to different child outcomes.

They are:

  • Authoritative Style: Close and affectionate parent child relationship with assertive but positive control and expectations in adolescence.

  • Authoritarian Style: Distant and less affectionate parent-child relationship with high level of conflict and coerciveness, setting control through clear rules, prohibitions and punishment.

  • Permissive Style: Close and affectionate parent child relationship however with less or even free from any control, supervision or expectations.

  • Neglectful Style: Distant, less affectionate parent-child relationship and free from any control or expectations.

Indeed, all the research and the simplistic summary I mentioned above, proves the importance of parenting and parent-child interactions during early adolescence and how they are strong predictors of future physical and online socializing behavior of youth.

What is currently being done about improving Parenting then?

There is some effort being done currently, however it is fragmented, not wide spread and sometimes in the wrong direction.

According to research:

  • New parents are left for themselves to discover and learn and society & governments only get involved through interventions to provide help and contribution. Intervention is ok but this is trying to sort out the problem not the root cause and interventions are only reaching fraction of parents.

  • Even though the parents are requesting schools and teachers to be evaluated on their proficiency in using technology, interaction and literacy for students, there is no push to parents themselves to be as proficient as the teachers or their children.

  • Most of parents, including myself, are left for themselves to get the knowledge to do the „right things“ and do things „right“, especially in the digital world with all its complexity. However, digital literacy vary between parents and therefore digital literacy of parents has a direct impact to the child’s development.

The above clearly highlights that Parenting has to be taken way more serious by governments and society and simply relying on „learning on the job“ is not attainable anymore; especially in the digital age where the level of „Digital Literacy“ (as per my previous blog) is a must. „Digital Parenting“ has to be actively supported, structured and offered to “EVERYONE”.

What do I suggest we do?

As we cannot unlink digital and non digital parenting aspects anymore, Parenting in the Digital Age can only be ONE ecosystem, a new one that cannot simply be taken from the „offline“ parenting our parents knew or that we currently know. With future generations being always „digital natives“, a new ecosystem is needed.

I have heard that „parenting“ is a balancing act and it hard to know exactly what to do and we should simply treat digital media as any other environment in the child's life. However, if governments, businesses and societies are today asking everyone to adapt to the Digital Change and continuously learn in the digital world, why not for parents as well?

Therefore, I suggest the following:

  • „How to be a Parent“ curriculum has to be taught in all schools to ensure future parents are prepared. The syllabus has to be wide ranging to cover the entire ecosystem of parenting in both the physical and digital world.

  • „Parenting the Digital World“ to be a „mandatory“ qualification for any new parent and have a refresher every 5 years, like you are expected to do many other certifications.

  • „Digital Literacy“ at school has to be as important as „math“ or „science“ and to be offered for both parents and children alike. Level of access and knowledge of digital technology vary among parents and therefore the community must provide literacy training to parents in order to level the variances.

  • Create „official“ moderated parenting sites. Spreading quality and helpful information to parents is not mainstream and currently only done reactively rather than proactively. By having official moderated sites, parents can feel comfortable to navigate digital spaces and increase their involvement.

For our future generations, its essential that all parents become digital parents and it requires high and coordinated effort by governments, society and families to enable such a transformation. So please spread the word!!!!

#Culture #Transformation #Psychology #parenting