Written By: Anita Kumari, Ng Rong Xin
We all live in the age of screens-smartphones, smartwatches, smart televisions; you name it. It is a no-brainer that children today are digital natives and as parents, we probably would not be surprised to find out that our child’s knowledge of digital technology exceeds ours. In fact, chances are, your child navigates digital media way better than you do. While we all want the best for our children, it can be hard to juggle our parenting responsibilities in this new era of rapid digitalization. With things like the Internet and smart devices at our disposal, our children are increasingly exposed to a variety of unknowns in the digital realm.
Becoming digital parents
A 3 year study from the National Institute of Education shows that children in Singapore are spending more time on digital media as it was found that children’s average screen time has increased by 23% from 1.75 hours to 2.15 hours per day. Recent findings by Straits Times also show that children in Singapore are spending more time on multiple digital media platforms as it was discovered that about 67% of children aged 7 to 9 use their smart devices daily and that more than 40% of children are on Facebook and about 15% on Instagram.
About 80% of children under the age of 7 are on the Internet.
As such, it is evident that children today use digital media for various purposes and learn through both physical and digital spaces. We will have to likewise move with the times, adjust to the ever-changing needs of our children and become modern digital parents in order to guide our children towards becoming responsible and effective users of digital media. The challenge remains-how do you decide on the best digital parenting style for yourself? Fret not, this article will introduce you to 3 digital parenting techniques as you embark on your journey towards becoming a modern digital parent.
Why is digital parenting important?
Developing a stable digital relationship with our children based on mutual trust will not only allow our children to become more comfortable with sharing their online experiences with us but also more importantly, help us keep our children safe by allowing us to monitor our children’s digital activity and protect them from possible online risks. But how do we forge such a relationship with our children?
What are the different styles of digital parenting?
There are 3 general styles of digital parenting today: active mediation, restrictive mediation, and co-use. It is vital for us to pick and practice a digital parenting style that best suits us because proper parental digital mediation has been proven to successfully reduce children’s exposure to potential risks and inappropriate content on digital media platforms.
Active mediation requires you to be a highly patient, understanding, and sensitive parent who values the importance of having meaningful conversations about digital technology with your child. This style is popular among parents of teenagers as older children tend to be more responsible and sensible online. It has been found that teenagers often set their own screen time rules and appear to be generally receptive to websites or apps which can boost their learning experiences. If you can see yourself explaining and discussing digital media openly with your child, then active mediation might be the perfect style for you.
Benefits of active mediation:
Develops mutual trust between you and your child-your child will be more likely to approach you and seek your advice when facing difficulties online
Promotes analytical skills- your child will more likely develop critical thinking skills and the ability to identify harmful content and risks online
How you can practice active mediation:
Encourage your child to be open with you-stimulate both offline and online conversations with your child
Discover digital media yourself-download apps like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and try playing popular games like Roblox or Minecraft so you can monitor your child’s digital activity and identify both the benefits and potential risks associated with such platforms
Visit Roblox and give it a try!
Promote creativity- encourage your child to spend more time on platforms like Minecraft or Canva so that your child understands the importance of using digital media meaningfully and learns a thing or two about digital creativity and skills like coding!
Visit https://www.canva.com/ to explore Canva yourself!
Restrictive mediation requires you to set rules and expectations for your child’s digital usage. Parents who practice restrictive mediation usually feel that digital technology causes more harm than good for their child’s development. This style is common among parents of younger children as toddlers and preschoolers often do not have the capacity to display a sense of responsibility and maturity when using digital technology yet. If you feel that your child will benefit from things like screen time control, then restrictive mediation might be the one for you.
Benefits of restrictive mediation:
Improves your child’s physical and mental health-you might notice subtle signs of improvement in terms of your child’s attention span, physical health and mental well-being as your child spends less time on digital devices and instead, spends more time on outdoor activities or other non-digital learning activities or hobbies
Allows you to keep a close watch on your child’s screen time and digital activity-your child might be less vulnerable to risky activities online
Downsides of restrictive mediation:
Over-reliance and lack of critical thinking-your child might become heavily dependent on you for help when it comes to digital media and lack the ability to independently identify online risks
May result in weakened trust between you and your child in the long run-if you choose to continue to strictly monitor and control your child’s screen time and digital usage, your child might lose trust in you
Rebellious behaviour-as your child might develop anxiety and negative emotions such as anger, mistrust, and hatred in the long run due to the fear of losing out, not being able to connect with friends or keep up with trends online, your child might attempt to circumvent the restrictions you have set and rebel against your decisions
So, it is important for you to rationalise with your child the reasons behind the restrictions you set on your child’s digital usage. Doing so will allow you to maintain a healthy digital relationship with your child.
Here's how you can practice healthy restrictive mediation:
Set rules-download apps like the Parental Control App and Parent Gateway so that you can track your child’s digital activity both at school and home but remember to explain to your child the importance and rationale of monitoring your child’s digital activity
Set up safe search-adjust the safe search settings for the search engines on the devices at home to minimise the likelihood for your child being exposed to explicit content online or potential harmful websites
Useful guides for you:
Social media platforms
Co-use involves you and your child sharing and using digital media freely without your guidance or instruction. This style is popular among parents of teenagers or young adults as parents of older children usually trust that their children know how to manage and navigate digital technology independently.
Benefits of co-use:
Promotes independence and online resilience-your child will learn to use digital technology independently and develop the capability to react appropriately to online risks and harmful content in the long run
Downsides of co-use:
Exposes your child to a variety of unknowns and potential harm online-your child may not necessarily know how to react to risks online and may fail to stay safe on digital media platforms especially if your child is still relatively young
What is your digital parenting style?
Yes, it is time for you to decide! While there is no right or perfect way to raise your child in this digital age, one thing’s for sure-you can definitely do your best as a modern digital parent by adopting the most suitable digital parenting technique to guide yourself in the process of raising your digital native at home. Before picking a style, it helps to think about your child’s age and needs as well as the situation at home and in school. Paying close attention to these factors is necessary in helping you stay attentive to your child’s digital needs and in allowing you to practice the right parenting style at the right time.