Parenting has never been easy, has it? But it seems like the digital world of devices and social media has changed the look of some of the familiar roles we thought we’d be playing when we first entered parenthood.
Every digital parent will find themselves, at some point, playing each of the following roles with their wired, device-laden kids.
We learn very quickly that our kids are watching us. Like all other behavior that we do or don’t want to see in them, our own digital life needs to convey our values as they apply to technology.
If we value conversation and face-to-face interaction, then we must put our own screens down and expect that they do the same when speaking to a fellow human. If we want them to develop discipline with putting the technology away for periods of time, then we need to show them what that looks like and what the positive benefits are.
So many parents feel that technology and devices have robbed them of the right to parent. Wrong!
Our most significant role as parents (apart from making sure our kids are safe and loved) is to guide them in the right paths by outlining expectations and actively teaching them the skills and qualities we know that good, successful, kind, productive, and creative people should have. We do that, in part, by encouraging and correcting.
Children are only going to know right and wrong, safe and dangerous, kind and hurtful, honest and unethical, by what others deliberately teach them. Hopefully, those “others” are us.
Closely linked with the Molder, the Mapper lays out the course ahead. They plan. They are deliberate about the steps that their offspring will need to take to–slowly, but surely–grow into their digital world.
A map isn’t a theoretical concept; it is a tangible, practical document. Mappers create an agreement, a contract, a chart, or some other visible means of communicating expectations, consequences, timelines, and other nitty-gritty relating to the use of technology in (and out) of their home.
Even though I might be living out what I feel to be correct digital behavior, and I’m thoughtfully teaching those values and principles, and I’ve written it down into a document all family members can understand and agree upon…I’m not done.
As our children begin to explore and, later, experiment, we need to keep a watchful eye. In a digital landscape, this requires some systems and tools, like filtering and monitoring software. But it can also be as simple as being able to see screens at all times.
To be clear, I am not a fan of spying on our kids. Monitoring is different from spying. Spying betrays trust. Monitoring is what our moms did when we were playing in the neighborhood. As we were learning to be independent, they often let us go outside, but would make sure they could see us from the window. And we knew it, and it made us feel safer.
From the time our kids have their own device or are independently online, we must take the opportunity to mentor them.
This role requires us to see the bigger picture of what we do as parents: we prepare them for their future. Yes, we must protect them in the here and now (i.e. Monitoring), but it doesn’t do any good to let them go from complete shelter to on-your-own with a sudden push out of the digital nest.
In Greek mythology, Mentor was a wise and faithful counselor and advisor. He tutored and guided the young Telemachus in Odysseus’ absence. Likewise, we need to walk alongside our children as they mature and develop skills and discernment of their own.
Ever make a mistake when you were young? When I think of all the embarrassing or stupid things that peppered my adolescence…
But we didn’t have social media then, so our gaffes and missteps weren’t amplified the way they are now.
At some point, your son or daughter will screw up. Online. Hopefully, if you Modeled and Molded well, it won’t be a doozie.
When they post something they didn’t mean to, or comment inappropriately, or even ignore an opportunity to stand up for someone online, show grace. This is not an opportunity for hand-slappings and I-told-you-so’s.
Why? Because if that is your reaction, why will they feel comfortable coming to you when they really screw up?
The Mender walks them through the process of coming to terms with what they did, making amends, and putting tools and systems in place to prevent it from happening again. They need our hard-won wisdom and experience here…not our judgment.
Spoiler alert: Technology changes at a dizzying pace. Apps, tools, and social media trends that are popular now may not have even been around last year.
Our parenting needs to reflect this shifting landscape. We need to constantly modify.
Modifiers consider the age and maturity level of their children. They recognize that two kids don’t hit the same maturity at the same age. Just because I let my older one have a phone at 12, it doesn’t automatically follow that my younger one should.
Modifiers watch the changes in the digital world and the role tech is playing in their kids’ social and academic lives, and they make adjustments to their expectations and “house rules.”
And like the responsibilities of the Model, your task as the Modifier is not a phase or stage like some of the others. As long as you have children under your watch, you are always a Modifier.
Which of these roles is the easiest? Which of these roles do you struggle with the most? Add to the conversation by commenting below.