How Social Media Forever Changed Parenting

I became a mother at the dawn of the Internet and watched technology and social media change parenting in ways I could never have imagined.  I got my first email address in the months before my last child was born and thus my family has quite literally grown up in parallel with the World Wide Web.

From Chatrooms to Snapchat, I have navigated parenthood through a maze of social media and technological innovations. Who could I consult with experience of social media and teens?  What did grandparents, pediatricians or even my friends know of this evolving landscape. If I felt that I was constantly making up the rules as I went along, it was because I was.

Technology and social media permanently altered the way we raised the first generation of children who were already out in the world, long before they left our homes. Here are 10 ways my life as a parent was changed, how about yours?

1. The irony of cell phones is that my kids are not as present when they are actually with me but are far more present, when they are away.  At home they are often distracted by their phones but at school, they will text, send photos and answer questions at all times, including in the middle of class.

Teen texting, texting, teen cell phone

2. The internet diluted my influence on my children, broadening their world views and creating teens less bound by the parochial constraints of their time and place. In an earlier age my children would have seen the world through my eyes or that of media I had paid to have delivered to our home.  Instead from an early stage they began to ask questions of Google and Wikipedia, and with that I lost some control of what they knew and how they knew it, and it all happened much younger than I imagined.

Google, Wikipedia, Kids using Wikipedia

3. I can stalk my kids with only my laptop and a cup of coffee. I can see every transaction in their bank accounts and every text or call on their cell phones, almost in real time. I can see their friends’ FB pages and twitter feeds, as well as that of their teachers. Photos, stories and videos of their actions will stream my way and I cannot help but feel a little sorry for them. I am not sure I would have wanted my parents to have had such a window into my teen life. My ability, should I have chosen to spy on them from the confines of my living room, is almost limitless.

Stalking, stalking teens, electronic spying

4. If I can stalk them, they can certainly return the favor. If I have regrets, I better hope that Google can’t find them. Ditto every adult in their lives.

Author bio, spying on mom

5. With the tap of their two thumbs, they update me about their days, letting me into their lives with a level of detail that selfishly, as a parent, is wonderful.  The almost-contemporaneous communication alters the fabric of our relationship entirely. I am much closer to their day-to-day lives, for better and for worse.

With the tap of their two thumbs, they update me about their days, letting me into their lives with a level of detail that selfishly, as a parent, is wonderful.  The almost-contemporaneous communication alters the fabric of our relationship entirely. I am much closer to their day-to-day lives, for better and for worse.

6. Technology and social media are as much a distraction for parents as kids and it is easy to ignore my children, even when they are a few feet away from me. Before my iPhone sat in the palm of my hand, they were more likely to have my undivided attention. As I scan through my email while my sons are talking to me, I am more guilty, because I should know better.

Not paying attention

7. Technology allows me to give my children greater freedom in their teen years as we can always stay in touch. Parents complain that the world is a dangerous place and therefore, kids must be kept closer than previous generations. Cell phones allow us to loosen the reins.

Attached by our Phones

8. Grounding was Defcon 5 in the house in which I grew up. When my kids misbehave, I blow up their world by sending them back to the ’70s, making them live technologically as I did at their age. Removing technology from their lives has turned out to be an effective punishment, beyond my wildest imagination.

Back to the 70s, the 70s,

9. Bad things can come into our homes, seep through the internet, and appear on my children’s computers. In earlier times, we guarded our families with door locks and burglar alarms. Now protecting our children is far more complicated. When Snapchat sends unseemly images right to our children’s phones, it becomes harder to protect them.
Technology danger. social media danger

10. Trust has become a bigger, not smaller, part of our parent-child relationship as it becomes harder to keep technologically apace of our children. I set up parental controls on my kid’s computers when they were younger and then found them in a flood of giggles as they circumvented my feeble attempts. We made rules, they followed them or didn’t, but trusting them to obey us became a bigger part of our relationship when they understood technology as well or better than I.

Trust



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Comments

  1. Very true in so many ways. My family became fully tech-savvy only after my girls went off to college. But I learned quickly how to gauge their daily well-being by keeping up with them on MySpace, though Facebook, at that time, only allowed college kids access. I agree wholeheartedly on the irony of the situation, that their attention is divided when physically with me but they share far more than they ever would have before when away. Plus, it makes long-distance grandparenting so much easier. And it’ll get even better as just yesterday I *finally* got a phone with Facetime on it and look forward to wonderful chats with my grandsons.

    (Two PS…sorry for the long post: 1)Your sons are surely proud of Mom when they Google you and see such accomplishments. 2)This is a great treatment for the post, with the photos and such. Cheers!)

    • So sweet Lisa thank you. I love the sharing with kids who are out of the house. The quick photos or texts just to touch base with mom. So heartwarming.

  2. I think we all have a love-hate relationship with cell phones, both our own and others. I have, according to her, the only fourteen year old who does not own a cell phone. She might be right, too.

    • I gave in at 13, you are a tower of strength! I gave them phones on the condition that they sent me photos from time to time…it has worked.

  3. LL says:

    -Except for the part of having an open window into their world, as my kids have blocked me from even a sneak peek unless it’s at their initiative.
    -We told our kids about communication with our parents during our college years. The one landline in the hallway. You either had to prearrange a time to call home, or listen to the phone ring off the hook on a Sunday morning when some parent thought it acceptable to call. No one was getting out of bed to answer that phone!
    -As for safety, I’d prefer to worry about a kid falling off the monkey bars at the playground. We had a mantra here during their “formative” technology years – “do not send via email, text, iMessage, Facebook, or any other digital format unless you are 100% comfortable with 100% of the world seeing it. Because they will. And we all know smart kids who have done really stupid things with technology. Most of them got kicked out of school and their families’ lives were made miserable.
    -But now – off to the photos that my daughter in Europe has sent of the dinner she just cooked. Love it!

    • Great advice about not sharing anything you do not want the world to see–so easy to forget. It is so scary for a parent to think what a kid can do with one impulsive push of a button.

  4. Funny, my son googled me too. Born in 1981, I think he luckily missed out on a lot of the negatives of the internet- he still went outside and played everyday.

    • So strange when the kids Google their parents and start asking question, something I never anticipated, to say the least.

  5. Interesting perspectives. I like the one about how we will have a window into their lives, much more than our parents did ours – so true.

    Stopping by from SITS.

    • They share so much more readily because it is so easy. A funny quip or a random thought is sent in an instant, if they had to call, I wouldn’t hear the half of it. THank you so much for reading.

  6. Anne Kimball says:

    Hi, I’m Anne from Life on the Funny Farm (http://annesfunnyfarm.blogspot.com), and I’m visiting from the SITS Saturday Sharefest.

    What a great piece! I’ve felt the same way. It’s a scary thing, all this technology, but it definitely has its benefits.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this post, I really enjoyed it. If you ever get a chance, stop over to my blog to say hi! Have a great day…

  7. Love this my kiddos are always online and it is way scary …stopping by from SITSSharefest

  8. Happy Sharefest!!
    The 5th Level of Motherhood

  9. I chucked when you mentioned kids and cell phones. If I received a phone call from a boy, I had to take it in the kitchen. That was the only phone in the house. My mother, OF COURSE, stood nearby and heard every single word I said. Your article brought back so many memories. Thanks for sharing!

  10. The distraction of Iphones and laptops is unavoidable now – it’s how we manage it that matters. I’m glad my kids are grown – I think this electronic world makes parenting much more complicated, with, as you said, boundaries blurred and information so available. With adult children, though, it offers the opportunity to share so much from a distance, which I appreciate.

    • Social media with older kids…a blessing. A quick note, a photo or just a chance to let them know you are thinking of them, love it.

  11. {Melinda} Like you, the Internet began to take off just as my first child was born. It has changed what I thought parenting would be like dramatically. The biggest thing for me is the loss of control — we can’t shelter them as much. And I mean shelter in a good way. They know things much earlier than they are emotionally ready to handle — no matter how hard we try to delay that knowledge. Parenting requires a lot more involvement and vigilance than it did when we were growing up. At the same time, there are advantages. I do really like texting my kids throughout the day. I’ve found it does help us feel connected and is a good thing for safety. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. :)

    Visiting from Sharefest!

    • So true about the loss of control. When my kids were quite small there was a world event I wanted to shield them from. Because the internet was unknown to them, that was possible. Now, impossible.

  12. Very true points. I started the www in chatrooms in talkcity, moved to MSN groups, Myspace & then facebook. I have been through it all and evolved along with it.

  13. Technology has changed things for sure. I don’t have a smartphone of any kind, and that’s because I know I wouldn’t be strong enough to resist its pull when I am out with my kids. This way I am 100% present for them when we are doing something together.

    • That kind of focus on your children is lovely, they will be grateful, I am sure. I need to remind myself of this often.

  14. Great post; love your ten thoughts…
    There’s a lot of negativity about socialmedia/ internet and technology influence in some spheres, but you’ve included the many positives as well. thanks!
    Here from SITS Sharefest
    x

    • Seems like with most seismic changes there are pluses and minuses. As the kids get older the pluses pile up.

  15. Aint it the truth? I tend to look at it from the positive “window on their world” aspect, but it really is different from the way we grew up. I’m more sad that my kids probably won’t have any physical written letters to save…

    • My son handed me all of his work for the 10th grade on a tiny flash drive, which it turns out, I think I lost. I think we are done with paper so they better find a better way than flash drives (the cloud?) to document their lives.

  16. I love being able to witness my daughter’s college days, even though she is 3,000 miles away. I often wonder how my parents and I winged it, only a telephone call a couple times a month? They were not much for writing letters…. love all the photos and almost meditative quality in the reading and reflecting. Well done!

    Visiting from SITS Saturday Sharefest.

    • SO kind, thank you. Parenting college kids is MUCH improved, it think the greater challenge may be in middle school.

  17. Glad my kids were a little older and the “necessity” of a cell phone was not apparent to them until the oldest was out the door and the youngest was a senior. I must admit that his having a cell phone made me feel more connected to him. I probably would have invaded his college if we hadn’t had that option for quick communication!

    • Funny how technology hit everyone’s parenting at a different time and thus altered things in a different way. Such a seismic shift.

  18. “The irony of cell phones is that my kids are not as present when they are actually with me but are far more present when they are away.”

    Exactly!

    • Thank you. Sometimes when I want their attention, I almost think I should tell them to leave the room and text me!!

  19. What an incredible blog post. I love your honesty and poignancy. Technology has definitely changed and affected EVERYTHING: the way we teach, the way we go to the doctor, the way we go to restaurants, personal relationships and of course, parenting.

  20. Carpool Goddess says:

    Great post and I love the photos! I’m so glad all these electronics weren’t available when my kids were little, it would have been a huge distraction for me. The texting, etc.. is a blessing and a curse. We know minute by minute what’s going on – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and I find often I just hear the bad, because when things are good they’re too busy to text.

    • I too feel a bit grateful that I wasn’t distracted when they were small. When they were tiny and I held them I either looked at the son I was holding or over at his brothers killing each other.

  21. This was such a wonderful post. I often think about how different my childhood was compared to children these days, both good and bad. It terrifies me a little bit when I think of having children with my husband, and how every mistake they make will be documented for the world. There’s something great about my dumb mistakes staying in the past.

    • It is both terrifying and exciting. Big shocker for me was how often people in my kids lives had looked us up and knew things about us and our kids before we met. Sometimes you forget that no one is really a stranger.

  22. Roshni says:

    It’s true! Social media truly has changed the way we parent. My kids are still small and I’m undecided about how much monitoring I should do. My husband’s inclination is to let them be and trust them.
    I love your rainbow mug!! :)

    • Thanks the mug is our sweet photographer, TB Kilman. We need to watch very closely not because the kids are naughty but because there is so much bad stuff out there that they can stumble into. I once sent an 8 year old to a porn site by forgetting that it should have been .gov not .com. I think we need to be very careful.

  23. I was working for the Army Corps of Engineers when the birth of the internet came about. We were thrown into using it to share project information. It slowly seeped into my everyday life and I remember my first son sitting on my lap while we enjoyed gorgeous pictures uploaded by NASA in 1993. :)

    We’ve been addicted to the net ever since.

  24. When my sons left for college, it was the strangest feeling. Things stayed where they were the last time I was in the room. I still had money in my pocket at the end of the week. I mourned them for about six months, then started looking toward what I had not been doing while they were home.

  25. it actually inspired me to create a site where our family could be a social network online and stay connected and coordinated with day to day events. I’d love for you to check it out. (Hatchedit.com)
    oh – it also turned me into an internet stalker. I check my daughters social media and have a google alert on her name!! lol. sigh.

  26. Love this one, Lisa! And with #1 Son an engineer/computer programmer, I suspect my hubby and I were outmaneuvered pretty early on. I agree that trust is the key factor here. Fortunately, we’re pretty good on that front! I think…:)

  27. I’ve become a mother two months ago. As a new mom I’ve learned so many lessons about parenting from social media network sites like Facebook and Twitter. I’ve lot of friends in FB and Twitter and most of them are parents as well. So from their experience I’ve learned a lot and such lessons helping me to take care of my baby properly. Anyways I like the views presented in this article as well! Please keep sharing more inspiring thoughts…

Trackbacks

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