Digital parenting and what to do as raising children

Addressing challenges in digital parenting require a collective effort, according to Elif Posos Devrani

Digitalization helps in solving various problems of humanity, ranging from manufacturing to transport, retail and telecommunication. On the other hand, we are facing difficulties especially in raising children caused by digitalization. And this brings the notion of ‘digital parenting’ on the table. On this occasion, I spoke to Assoc. Prof. Elif Posos Devrani at Turkish-German University to learn more digital parenting.    Her expertise covers new media, media literacy, digital parenting and mediatization. The interview included various aspects of digital parenting , such as the tools for parents and the responsibility of digital device manufacturers.

What is digital parenting? Can you describe it briefly?

In fact, digital parenting is a phenomenon that has emerged as a result of the digitalized world, adding to the existing responsibilities of parenting. Traditionally, a parent has been defined as a mother, father, or elder family member who assumes the role of fostering the emotional, social, and educational development of an individual, in addition to their biological upbringing. However, in today’s society, various environments where children interact necessitate different roles for parents.

With advancements in technology, children and adolescents, who are not yet equipped to navigate the complexities of the digital world, often struggle to effectively evaluate the information they encounter. In this context, the role of parents extends beyond merely introducing their children to technologies such as computers and the Internet, and granting them access to these platforms. It also entails providing them with opportunities to explore the digital realm, guiding them to use these opportunities responsibly, and educating them about safeguarding themselves against potential risks.

Assoc.Prof. Elif Posos Devrani at Turkish-German University

What are the main responsibilities of the parents in raising their children in digital age?

First and foremost, it is important to note that parents face significant challenges in fulfilling these responsibilities on their own and achieving success. Addressing these challenges requires a collective effort at the societal level, involving political decision-makers and the private sector as stakeholders who work together. With that in mind, let me summarize the key areas in which parents should exercise responsible actions:

-One of the foremost responsibilities is to ensure that parents educate their children about the proper use of digital technologies. Ideally, parents should possess enough digital literacy to assess the adequacy of their children’s training and provide guidance as needed.

-Parents should also take necessary measures to ensure their children’s online safety. These precautions can involve proactive steps that children take on their own initiative, as well as considerations that service providers should prioritize for creating a safe digital environment. Therefore, parents’ responsibility for digital safety extends beyond merely providing information to their children; they should also advocate for digital safety measures from the private sector.

-In today’s digitalized world of communication, parents have a duty to monitor their children’s digital activities and engage in digital communication practices themselves. By establishing open communication channels, children can feel comfortable sharing any risks they may encounter in the digital world with their parents.

-Another area of responsibility, often discussed among parents, is ensuring a healthy digital balance, including managing screen time. Parents should assist children in creating a balanced schedule that accounts for time, content, and the appropriate use of digital tools.

It is important to recognize that these responsibilities cannot be solely shouldered by parents, but require collaboration and support from various stakeholders in society to ensure children grow up as safe, informed, and responsible individuals in the digital world.

Should digital devices manufacturers hold responsibility in digital parenting?

How about the policymakers’ role in digital parenting? Should they be involved in the process or should they leave the families alone?

I believe that the role of policymakers should extend beyond mere involvement. Instead, policymakers, the private sector, educators, and families should come together and engage in collaborative discussions on this issue. It is crucial for these stakeholders to sit at the same table, exchange ideas, and work collectively to address the challenges of digital parenting. Engaging policymakers, the private sector, educators, and families in joint discussions demonstrates a commitment to working together towards the common goal of promoting responsible digital parenting practices. Through this collaborative effort, we can harness the collective wisdom and resources of all stakeholders to create a safer and more supportive digital environment for children and families.

 The other side of the coin shows the digital devices manufacturers, such as smartphones and tablets. Do you think that those companies should undertake responsibility in digital parenting?

Exactly! When examining current practices, it is often observed that service providers tend to comply with the regulations specific to the regions they operate in, or they may present proactive measures for digital security as an added service or marketing feature. However, what should truly occur is that the private sector should embrace the enhancements mandated by regulations even during the service implementation or ideation stages. In order for this to happen, the private sector must prioritize the establishment of a safe digital environment and consider the societal benefits.

It is important for service providers to go beyond mere compliance and actively incorporate measures that promote digital security into their core operations. By considering the social impact and actively seeking ways to create a healthy digital ecosystem, the private sector can contribute significantly to the well-being of individuals and families in the digital age.

This approach not only aligns with regulatory requirements but also demonstrates a genuine commitment to the welfare of users. By taking proactive steps and considering digital security from the outset, service providers can play a pivotal role in fostering a safer and more responsible digital environment for everyone. (I had a story about the rising sales of digital equipments in the days of pandemic)

Tools of digital parenting

-What are the tools of digital parenting? Can you mention some examples?

There are various tools and strategies available to assist parents in practicing digital parenting. Parental Control Softwares such as Bark, Net Nanny, Google Family Link allow parents to monitor and control their child’s online activities. They often include features such as content filtering, screen time management, and blocking inappropriate websites or applications. Online resources that provide parents with reviews and ratings of movies, TV shows, books, apps, and games, helping them make informed decisions about age-appropriate content for their children. Common Sense Media serves as a notable example of such content. It also offers a range of resources and curriculum examples for digital citizenship education. Its primary objective is to educate children on responsible and ethical online behavior, digital literacy, safeguarding privacy, and preventing cyberbullying.

-Recenty we have been hearing “digital device contract” for families. Do you agree that it helps digital parenting?

On one condition: If all family members agree, if there are rules applicable to everyone, and if the reasons for limitations are discussed and accepted by all, then such an agreement can be effective. It sounds quite democratic, doesn’t it?

I would like to emphasize an overlooked aspect in the family media plan, which often focuses solely on time limits. However, it is equally important to discuss the content being consumed (or produced) and the specific digital tools being used. Within a system that promotes children’s digital consumption, financial considerations should also be addressed. Another crucial aspect to be decided in the family media plan is digital etiquette. It is necessary to discuss the ethical rules that should be followed in online sharing, chats, or the personas created digitally.

The key factor for the success of a family media plan that encompasses all these aspects lies in one thing: We must not forget the rule of “being a role model,” which is the foundation of parenting. How well do we apply, internalize, and implement the rules we set for our children? Without addressing this question, it will be difficult to claim that parents are successful digital mentors.

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