Parenting and Childhood Trends - Technology
Technology has been defined as a key differentiator when determining the new challenges parents are facing. To this end, some experts recommend controlling or limiting a child's dependence on technology, which is the top trend in parenting since modern technological developments.
Based on recently published information, I have compiled a list of trends in parenting and childhood that have been directly caused by technological developments. In particular, I have provided extensive information on the idea of "screen time," the practice of limiting a child's access to screens or devices, a long-discussed debate within the parenting community. I focused my research particularly on challenges or new issues parents face as a result of technology. Below I have provided a list of top trends and challenges for parents parenting in a tech and media-saturated world.
Selections on the top trends were made based on their frequency of mention and which credible sources have discussed its importance. For example, I was sure to provide as many academic sources as possible, putting additional emphasis on sources published within the last year to ensure that the information provided is the most recent available within the academic community. Additionally, for each trend, I have provided a detailed description of the issue from various sources.
TOP TWO TRENDS
"SCREEN TIME" & PARENTS PRACTICING WHAT THEY PREACH
The concept of "screen time" is something that has been thoroughly studied and researched quantitatively. Many parents have found that limiting a child's screen time is an easy way to teach their children a sense of respect and awareness for technology as a tool, rather than as an immersing, must-have aspect of life. In The Modern Parent's Guide to Facebook and Social Networks, Scott Steinberg explains that “a lot of what we’re teaching about parenting around technology is just basic parenting,” which seems to be true, based on the research available.
As such, a large part of parenting is modeling the lessons they teach their children, and this applies to the use of technology and screen time. To help children understand the importance of a lesson in moderating the amount of time watching TV or using devices, parents are encouraged to limit their own time. While limiting screen time is an increasingly popular practice, some parents do not limit their children's screen time. NPR published an excellent piece on this subject where parents and NPR hosts discuss parenting decisions in the 21st century, and their strategies for networking, dealing with the idea of "screen time," and educating their children. Of particular interest, at 7:25, one mother talks about how much technology has changed parenting. "One thing that I have as a takeaway right now, is that we can role model how to use our technology. And can we put our phones down, and put them away, like we want our kids to?" (8:10).
QUICK FACTS about usage
-Of those surveyed, 18% of children (age 0-2) had a TV in their bedroom.
-63% of those surveyed (children, age 0-2) watched TV the day before the survey. Their average screen time was 75 minutes.
-In a study of rules regarding technology for children and teens (age 8-18), <30% of those surveyed said there were rules limiting TV screen time.
-58% of children (preschool age) knew how to play a game on their computer, whereas only 9% reported that they could tie their shoes.
-Studies estimate that adolescents are using technology more than 7.5 hours per day, and approximately 25% of that time is spent multitasking and consuming various kinds of media.
-DEALING WITH CYBERBULLYING
A 2017 study explains that "emerging evidence suggests that parents struggle to control their adolescents' activity online, including youth involvement in cyberbullying." It goes on to suggest that because most cyberbullying happens at home, parents have a significant role in preventing cyberbullying. The study concludes that "prevention and intervention strategies focused on reducing cyberbullying must be multi-systemic and consider parent-adolescent dynamics and their relationship to community, school and society." There are a number of ways parents are dealing with cyberbullying. There are a number of nation-specific websites that provide support for parenting in the (new) digital age. Additionally, parents are recommended to talk about cyberbullying and general Internet safety when setting screen time or device boundaries.
-MAINTAINING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Before modern media technology, children did not have a draw to stay indoors, so ensuring for children to keep active was not necessarily a concern. Globally speaking, Australian parenting outlet ParentingIdeas explains that "recent research tells us that children’s physical activity peaks at around four years of age in Australia and gradually decreases every year from there. According to the Barna Group, "balancing physical activity with online activity" is the top challenge felt by families regarding technology.
-KNOWING WHAT YOUR CHILDREN KNOW
Part of what makes children using technology so complicated is the extensive amount of information available on the internet. There is discussion about parents being distracted by technology, and one of the many side effects of this distraction is not monitoring their children's behavior online. The American College of Pediatricians has an extensive publication regarding the impact of technology on children, youth, and families as a whole. In it, they have extensive sections regarding the sensitive content that children and teenagers can access through their various devices.
Of particular concern to ACPEDS are children and teen access to sexually explicit content. They explain that "studies reveal that the more an adolescent watches television programming featuring sexual content, the more likely that adolescent is to prematurely initiate sexual activity. Teens exposed to a high level of sexual content were also twice as likely to experience a pregnancy within the next three years as compared to those teens who viewed less sexualized programming."
In order to address these kinds of problems, experts advise setting boundaries. Part of the key to setting boundaries, especially with teenagers, is to set them clearly: "have discussions about when, where, how often, and what they can and can’t do online. Have clear times when phones and tablets need to be turned off, limits on amount of game time each day, and come up with sensible expectations for how much time is spent socialising online." Discussing how, when, where, and what kind of access children have to the computers and to Internet-enabled devices help parents know what their children are doing and learning about online.
-PARENTS USING TECHNOLOGY TO LEARN ABOUT PARENTING
One mother on the NPR segment said it best: back in the 90s, parents did not have the advantage of the Internet as they do today. According to Care's 2017 predictions, Millennial parents are going to be moving toward minimalism, teaching true grit, flexible workplace childcare programs, and nanny shares. Most of these are facilitated with technology's help, especially nanny shares (there was a 23% increase in families seeking shared nannies in 2016 alone). Additionally, many of the guides provided in this brief have been articles published and geared toward parents, such as the NY Times' comprehensive modern parenting guide and the ACPEDS's concerns on child Internet usage.
Top recent trends and challenges for parents are the question of screen time and modeling what they teach their children, especially with technology. Additional trends include maintaining physical activity, knowing what children have access to, dealing with cyberbullying, and parents using technology as a learning tool (for themselves). Modern parents have the advantages granted by technology, along with the disadvantages of unlimited access to unlimited information on the Internet. To combat this, most experts advise setting boundaries with children and teenagers, particularly when they are younger, in order to teach respect for technology and for technology-free time.