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The Evolution of the Digital Parent

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A major part of the challenge of parenting in this day and age lies in managing the increasingly digital lives of their children, especially in their tween and teen years. While managing the day-to-day is hard enough, sometimes it is useful to take a step back and look at what is happening across families and households around the world. At a minimum, it will help tremendously to know that you are not alone!

Two recent studies have looked at children and teens and their online lives. Digital Diaries, sponsored by AVG, is an ongoing study of the effects of technology on childhood. The 2014 study is based on an online survey of over six thousand parents from around the world. A couple of key findings from the study is illustrative of the challenge that parents face. 66 percent of parents of 6-9 year olds said time spent online takes away from children "learning other more important life skills." However, 16 percent of 6-9 year olds have an account and use Facebook, despite the official age for opening an account being 13.

Whether you're alarmed by this (or not) is a matter of perspective. Now put this in context with the findings from McAfee's 2014 Teens and the Screen study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying. The annual study examines the online behavior and social networking habits of U.S. preteens and teens.

The most significant finding from this year's study reveals that 87% of youth have witnessed cyberbullying versus last year when 27% of youth witnessed cruel behavior online. This behavior was perceived to result in anger and embarrassment, leading to a broader theme about how online behavior is impacting their offline lives. The study highlights how risky online activity can follow them offline and possibly make them even more susceptible to cyberbullying.

Moreover, 24% of youth say that they would not know what to do if they were harassed or bullied online. And if we are talking about teens and tweens here, where does that leave the 6-9 year olds who are active on social media?

What are we, as digitally parents, to do? Read the recommendations from the two studies here and here. You will see that plain common sense and good old parenting will keep you in good stead.