Can There Be Too Much Connectivity Between Parents and Children?
If you’ve seen the headlines about the recent trend of parents attending their children’s job interviews, you have probably wondered if our culture of helicopter parenting has finally gone too far. Digital tools have made it possible for children and parents to be in constant contact in ways that simply were not possible a generation ago, and that connectivity has led to a situation where it seems that some parents are simply never willing to cut the apron strings.
But Isn’t Some Monitoring Necessary?
Of course, parents of younger children absolutely need to track and monitor their children’s usage of digital tools. There are simply too many opportunities for trouble—from sexting to cyberbulling—to leave a young child alone in the digital realm without parental supervision. But what our society seems to be lacking is the ability to wind down that monitoring and connection in appropriate ways.
What’s the Limit? Where’s the Limit?
It might seem natural to track your child as much as the technology allows, simply because the technology makes it possible. But there are risks. One mother felt better monitoring her child’s whereabouts when she first got her driver’s license and watched the digital dot of her car trace the maps of her city with a feeling of security unknown to past generations of the parents of new drivers. That is, until the car’s dot moved to the center of a local lake, inspiring waves of panic in the mother. It took hours for the mother to determine that a technical glitch—and not a devastating car accident—was the problem. All of this unnecessary panic and monitoring could have been avoided.
In fact, excessive monitoring can undermine the trust that should exist between parent and child. It’s that trust that can do a lot to actually keep the child safe. Further, a child who is constantly monitored can internalize the idea that her parents do not think that she is competent to manage her affairs. This can destroy her confidence, which can lead to a myriad of future problems. This means that parents need to allow their children room to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes on their own.
There are no rules for this process since we are raising the first generation of kids to come of age with smartphones. Parents will need to think deeply about what type of monitoring is appropriate for each stage of their child’s life. They cannot simply default to being connected because connection is possible. Rather, they need to intentionally deny themselves opportunities to monitor their child, so the child can develop the skills needed to survive on their own.