Parenting: From Tamagotchi to Social Media

June 4, 2017

Source: Times of Israel


In my opinion, parenting in the age of technology and social media requires the same basic moral stance that parenting in the age of TV required – the same as parenting in the age of artificial intelligence will require. I believe it starts with asking. “What makes sense, for what purpose, and what kind of kids do we want as a result?” I think 3 basic ideas still stand for parenting in the age of technology.

  • Keep the lines of communication open
    Just as we expect our children will be respectful in person, they should be respectful of us and others on social media. In order to ensure this, parents should “follow” their kids online, not because we are stalking them (and we shouldn’t) but because we need to know what’s going on in their lives. Talk to them (that’s different than questioning all the time) so they will share their experiences, questions and worries with you. Parents wouldn’t allow their kids to go out and not know where they are – so we wouldn’t allow our kids to be “online” without knowing where they are, who they are with and where they are “going”. All of this takes communication at a high level.
  • Establish both rules and trust
    Parents need to establish rules and have trust with their kids. Some things are non-negotiable. When kids are young, those non-negotiables will be different than when kids are older. One would be that parents must have their children’s passwords. Another would be that if you ask your child to remove a post, he/she must. A third would be that kids shouldn’t charge their devices in their rooms after bedtime. These are just 3 non-negotiables for younger kids, but the idea is clear. If your kids can’t be trusted, you are sunk. If your child doesn’t follow the rules, be strong and take away the device temporarily. It’s important that kids know the rules are not to be broken, but if the rules are followed, then more latitude is possible. 
  • Teach your kids to be critical of information

    Just this week, my son and I listened to a podcast called “The Road to Tyranny”. It was, in small part, about how to understand American politics through an understanding of dictatorships in the 20th century. The podcast was a conversation between an Oxford educated professor at Yale and a philosopher with a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. And, guess what? We talked about it afterwards, trying to sort out the messages, decide if we agreed or disagreed and understand how this helps us understand the news of the day out of the White House. But we both could agree that sources were credible and worth a discussion.

So lots has changed, but lots has stayed the same. Raising kids is hard work. Kids need structure, flexibility, limits, lots of communication, two-way trust and, certainly, some freedom within the structure.

I’m not going to deny that technology and social media make parenting hard – partly because it’s new and very big – but it is possible to apply some of the same “parenting ideas that work” to parenting technology. Of course, we all know there are incredible benefits to technology and, by the way, it isn’t going away so we kind of HAVE to figure it out. Now excuse me while I go videochat with my daughter, check the messages on my smartphone, have a peek at Facebook and binge watch the new season of “House of Cards.” Oy!

Read the entire post at the Times of Israel.

Updated: Jun. 14, 2017