It may be a little more natural to think that the use of digital media would not contribute to positive parenting, but in fact, it certainly can! Successful parenting of adolescents involves the following responsibilities:
Advocate and Connect: Advocate for and provide basic needs along with a supportive and connected environment at home, and outside of the home, with caring adults. Strategies that involve digital media include:
- Identify online resources that can support you in fulfilling your parenting responsibilities, such as participating in an online class or blog and signing up to receive a regular newsletter on adolescent development.
- Advocate for your teen by looking out for their best interests. Check their school website on a regular basis and know the email addresses of key people in your teen’s life.
Guide and Limit: Set clear boundaries while still supporting your teen’s need for skill development in problem-solving and decision-making. Help your teen understand reasons behind rules. Strategies that involve digital media include:
- Use discipline as a tool for teaching and guiding rather than punishment and power. For example, instead of banning your teen from a social networking site for posting a hurtful comment, have them research the impacts of bullying.
- Maintain clear and realistic family rules and expectations, such as rules about appropriate technology use. Communicate these clear expectations with a text when your teen is in the situation (e.g. “As a reminder, no riding with anyone who has been drinking.”).
- Involve your teen in making rules around the use of digital media, such as amount of screen time and in-game selections.
Love and Communicate: Develop a supportive relationship with your teen that involves respect, interest and affection. Strategies that involve digital media include:
- Post a “way to go” message on your teen’s Facebook page when they post an accomplishment.
- Text a question rather than an accusatory message if you suspect negative behavior.
Model and Teach: Adolescents are influenced by what parents and other adults do and say, so providing them with information to support good decision-making is important. Strategies that involve digital media include:
- Set up weekly Skype nights with grandparents or create an extended family blog on specific topics.
- Teach problem-solving and coping skills by being a “good loser” if your teen wins against you in digital media games.
- Model healthy lifestyle choices and healthy relationship skills on your own social media platforms.
Monitor and Protect: Monitor the behavior of your teen while supporting their need for privacy. Strategies that involve digital media include:
- Text your child at established times to be aware of their whereabouts and activities.
- Monitor your child’s social media sites for warning signs of poor physical or mental health.
We know that digital media will continue to be a part of the lives of adolescents, and because of this, we can foster the opportunities we have to positively influence adolescent development by way of digital media.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, you can read short articles and link to resources on the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s eParenting® website: http://fyi.uwex.edu/eparenting.