Digital Parenting Styles. Which one are you?

Parenting isn’t one size fits all. Different family dynamics call for different styles and approaches and there’s nothing wrong with that. Interestingly, however, parenting can be broken into four rough styles. 

In 1967, psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a study on more than 100 preschool-age children concluding that there are some important dimensions of parenting. They included disciplinary strategies, warmth and nurturing, communication styles, and expectations of maturity and control. 

To her 3 parenting styles, a fourth was added after further research. Parents may use a mix of these but tend to use one the most.

  • Authoritative or Supportive
  • Authoritarian
  • Permissive
  • Disengaged

Do these parenting styles still apply in the digital context?

The report, Digital Wellbeing of Canadian Families [2018] identified these characteristics of digital parenting styles:

  • Authoritative parents = Digital Limiter 
    • It’s my job to set limits for my child while they use digital technology and support them when they run into problems
  • Authoritarian parents = Digital Mentor 
    • It’s my job to keep my child safe by enforcing my rules while they use digital technology 
  • Permissive parents = Digital Enabler 
    • It’s my job to be a friend my child can learn with and confide in while they use digital technology
  • Uninvolved or disengaged parents = Digital Enabler
    • It’s my job to stay out of my child’s way and let them learn on their own while they use digital technology
  • Digitally challenged parents = Digital Enabler 
    • I usually let my child decide what’s best to do while they use digital technology because they know a lot more about it than I do

The study found ‘Authoritative digital mentors are most likely to use a combination of both restrictive and enabling mediation to manage their child’s digital well-being. Parents who identify as digital mentors, or digital role models, tend to take a more context or situation-specific approach to rule setting; allowing rules to develop organically, from a particular situation, and wherever possible setting rules with their child.’

Digital parenting involves a continued effort to find the balance between mitigating risks associated with digital technology and giving children access to the many opportunities it provides them. 

Digital media researcher, Professor Sonia Livingstone has found that parents are ‘guided by their already-established styles of parenting and family values, extending these to digital media uses at home as soon as their young children first pick up a tablet or smartphone.

The TOP 5 tips to help the first generation of digital parents to meet the challenges:

  1. Show an interest in your child’s online life without prying or spying. 
  2. Get to know the apps and services they use.
  3. Learn to talk about difficult subjects in a way both you and your child feel comfortable with.
  4. Lead by example. No ‘Do as I say, not what I do.’
  5. Give children the freedom to explore-but provide boundaries and a safety blanket should things go wrong.