Are You a Poor Parent If You Rely on Parenting Tech?
It’s hard not to use technology when that technology exists. So, many parents fall into the habit of monitoring every aspect of their child’s life simply because it is technologically possible. This means that some parents never allow their children to act like independent adults, to the extent that they sometimes attend job interviews with their children. Most people would agree that that is a step too far, but how do parents know where to draw the line? Are you a poor parent if you rely on parenting tech?
First, it is important to understand that the majority of parents are in fact monitoring their children’s use of technology. And this is a good thing—to an extent. There are too many horrible things on the internet for a parent to allow a child unfettered access. The issue can be both quality and quantity: there are some things that children simply should not have access to, and some things that might be acceptable in moderate doses but that can’t be allowed to dominate a child’s life. And it only makes sense to use tech to monitor tech use. So, no, you are not a poor parent if you rely on parenting tech.
Setting Limits . . . on Parents
But the other side of the coin is that not all of the monitoring that is technologically possible is wise. Research suggests that if children are not given the autonomy to make mistakes, they will not learn as much as they would learn from their own experiences. This can be a problem in two separate ways. First, children need to learn concrete skills, such as navigating a bus schedule without texting dad for help. Second, they need to learn more generally to have confidence in their own decision-making ability—something that can’t happen if they don’t make decisions. This lack of confidence can cripple their future prospects.
In sum, parents have to walk a tight rope: they need to monitor their children enough to help them avoid grave errors, but they need to give them enough freedom to make some mistakes so they can learn and grow. There is no easy way to tell exactly where the dividing line is between these two situations. It will depend to an extent on the maturity of the child and the particular circumstances. But there is definitely an appropriate role for tech tools for parents.