The Never-Ending Battle: Parents vs. Everything

A mom freaking out about her daughter on a tablet

In recent surveys, over 80 percent of parents believe it’s harder to raise children today when compared to the past. During their childhood, they perceive fewer challenges given the parenting concerns many have about the Internet and social media. The frequency with which kids connect to Internet devices causes many to worry about a variety of things. This not only includes their child being exposed to inappropriate content. It also involves anxieties about poor social development, cyberbullying, and more. Notably, some of these parenting concerns are legitimate and deserve attention. But at the same time, it should also be appreciated that parents and advances in technology have always clashed.

With every new technology, parents have worried about the impact these developments might have on their children. Interestingly, however, parenting concerns about such developments tend to be the same as each new technology is introduced. On the one hand, proponents of change highlight the potential new technologies have in education and quality of life. But many parents who oppose such change only see specific risks involved. They focus more on issues related to access and the amount of time spent using the new technology. It now seems like history is once again repeating itself with parents and advances in technology butting heads. Many believe the Internet and social media poses serious risks while others don’t. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Perhaps, taking a look back over time might help us answer that question. (Social media isn’t all bad–read this PBL story to find out why!)

Modern-Day Luddites or Responsible Parents?

With every new technology that has developed over time, some parents express serious worries and resist change. These types of parents have been referred to as modern-day Luddites. Perhaps, you’re not familiar with the term, but it essentially refers to Industrial Age workers in 19th century England. As industrial machines began to replace human labor, a group known as the Luddites protested. Ultimately, their answer was to break the machines so that they no longer worked. But this did little to stop progress. The Industrial Age proceeded despite the Luddites’ opposition, the same way it has countless other times.

Understanding this, current issues between parenting and advances in technology are quite similar to those of the Industrial Age. Internet devices, social media, video games, and more represent a dramatic change in many ways. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many have parenting concerns over the potential risks of new technologies. Nearly 90 percent of parents express concern about their child’s safety when they are online. The same percentage also believe it’s their responsibility to control their child’s online activity. But is this type of parenting truly have children’s best interest in mind? Or are they indeed modern-day Luddites who are afraid of change? Certainly, parents have a responsibility to protect their children as best as possible. But at what point does this become excessive and actually hinder their child’s opportunities?

Parents and Advances in Technology – The Same Old Story

If we look back in time, it’s clear that parents and advances in technology have repeatedly been at odds. In the early 1900s, the latest media technology introduced to the public involved films. Those in the industry claimed films would unlock children’s education potential, providing them with new chances to learn. But almost immediately, parenting concerns about children being exposed to inappropriate immoral content was raised. Eventually, this led to a number of restrictions on the film industry so that parenting concerns could be appeased. But there is little evidence that these parenting concerns about film were ever justified.

In the 1920s, history again repeated itself when radio and related programming became widespread. Unlike films, the FCC regulated radio programming from the start, so parenting concerns about content were as strong. But that didn’t mean parents and advances in technology weren’t present. Those who opposed radio programming claimed it undermined family values. Kids would rush through the family dinner to catch a radio show, limiting their time together. Yet, it was clear radio introduced children to a variety of new opportunities ranging from music, to documentaries, to entertainment.

Then, came television in the 1940s and 1950s. Despite its widespread appeal to adults and children alike, parenting concerns quickly surfaced here as well. The same worries regarding inappropriate content exposure, time away from family, and time away from other activities were voiced. But few would argue against the advantages television offered in education or social awareness. Today, we now face the same argument between parents and advances in technology related to the Internet. But if history has shown us one thing, parenting concerns related to the latest and greatest often overshoot the mark.

Embracing Parenting and Change Together

With social media and with the Internet, parenting concerns are justified. Cyberbullying does exist, and children and parents both need to be aware of it. Likewise, too few social interactions in-person in exchange for online ones can limit social skills development. And social media can affect how we see ourselves and create low self-esteem, even among parents. But just because such risks are present doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t embrace new technologies. Embracing change is both difficult as well as necessary for growth. And realizing this can help every parent in dealing with how they view the latest and greatest. Parents and advances in technology definitely have points of contention from time to time. But as the saying goes, it’s not wise to through the baby out with the bath water.

It’s interesting to note that the vast majority of parents believe it’s harder to parent today than when they were kids. Think about it. Advances in technology have been beneficial to parents as well. Today, parental controls, content filters, and other software are available, helping to appease many parental concerns. In this regard, embracing technologies can actually enhance parenting abilities as well as a child’s opportunities to excel. As with most new developments, the best answer usually lies somewhere in the middle. Most advances in technology indeed offer many benefits. But they also carry some risks. The best parenting thus appreciates the good with the bad and parents accordingly. This is that ideal middle ground that we all should hope to find.


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