Parenting in An Age of Hyperconnectivity

Mother and daughter using cellular telephonesThe human experience of parenting has changed some over the years. Biologically, having a child still involves all the relevant body parts, but these parts do not necessarily have to belong to the parent in question. A mother’s body or a man’s sperm can now all be borrowed, rented, or purchased. All the wonders of the laboratory and the operating suite of modern medicine refined for assisting pregnancy confirm the power of the human drive to procreate and start a family.

The work of parenting has been changing just as much as the biology of conception. Technology has changed the way our children experience the world, themselves and each other. Recent developments allow every computer and cell phone user to remain constantly online and connected. Parenting now has to involve the management of our children’s online experiences.

In the last 15 years, technology has made personal communication so fast, efficient, and inexpensive that our world has become both larger and smaller. It has expanded across cultural and geographic barriers while shrinking to fit in the palms of our hands. Cell phone ownership has lessened how much young people talk on the phone. They are more likely to receive and send short, private text messages around the clock.

Using social networks like Facebook leaves them wide open to the emotional suffering from  nasty, thoughtless comments or photo posts. Such suffering is now a regular part of the adolescent experience on because of this platform. It is old fashioned gossip, but now at lightening speeds. Even so, internet pornography poses more serious risks.

The over-use of this means of sexual arousal, particularly by young males, interrupts their sexual development. It can quickly move them toward addiction and disrupt adult partnered sexual experiences. I witness pornography-related problems on a routine basis in my therapy practice.

So what’s a good parent to do?

Four Things Families Can Do to Mitigate the Negative Effects of A Hyper-Connected Culture

1. Model your own appropriate use of technology. If you do not want you child glued to a computer screen every free moment they have, be sure you are modeling an active adult life that includes other sources of entertainment and relaxation. The life you model will be the template they use as they move toward their own adulthood.

2. Maintain appropriate controls. Just as you do not allow your children to watch television at three o’clock in the morning, establish similar, clear expectations for their cell phone and computer use. If necessary, install programs that automatically shut the computer down at bedtime, and make sure their phones are off and not in use at night.
Some cellular plans allow parents to control access for each phone on the plan according to time of day or amount of use. Use these restrictions if they are available to you. Put your family computer in a shared space, like an office or family room, and check in on what your computer-savvy child is doing from time to time.

3. Respect your child’s privacy. Depending on the circumstances of their early years, your child will likely have a developed sense of managing friendships by the time they seriously engage with technology. Arising challenges are normal and you should be there to help them when they need support. However, do not get into the habit of searching your child’s text messages, chat logs, or photos for inappropriate things. Let your child manage their own life as much as possible.

4. Encourage your family to be involved in real world experience. My hope is that we will turn again to the real world for meaning, solace and pleasure when the new level of internet connectivity and telecommunications become commonplace. We should encourage our youth to do real world activities as often as possible such as sports, the arts, community service, outdoor adventuring and spiritual and political exploration.

Parenting is still a skill and an art form. Most parents have children and figure out the process as they go along. And while living in a culture of hyper-connection can be difficult, it is still up to parents, who still purchase and pay for these wonders of technology, to be in charge of their use in their children’s lives.

© Copyright 2010 by Lynne Silva-Breen. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 5 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • d.bell

    September 20th, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    all the new things and avenues that technology offers should be well understood by parents. what happens, as I have observed with my own parents as well as those of my friends, is that most parents over-react to things and technology has actually widened the generation-gap.this was not necessary but has happened because most parents do not use tech in the same way as we do.so they have a SHOCK when I change my relationship status on FB!

  • Carol

    September 21st, 2010 at 4:42 AM

    My grand daughter is only 9 years old and wanted a computer for her bedroom and her parents (thankfully) told her no. The computer in their house is downstairs in a place where there is constant foot traffic and opportunities for everyone to see what is going on on the computer screen. Now granted she is a bit young to be looking for trouble online but I know that all of us have stressed to her that in the online world sometimes you may not go looking for trouble but it can very easily come looking for her. I hope that these words stick with her and that she continues with the responsibility that she already shows but of course I worry that as she gets older peer pressure will get stronger and may drag her into bad situations. But I think the best we can do is to keep a close eye on what they do without smotheringand always paying attention to their on and off line behavior.

  • WL

    September 21st, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    although it is important to keep an eye on your child’s activities this should not be too much as it can really irritate the child and get in the way of the child’s development of his/her self. I believe parents can do a much better job if they consult someone who is already a parent, maybe an older friend or colleague.

  • Sally

    September 22nd, 2010 at 4:49 AM

    How can kids learn about the appropriate use of technology when all throughout dinner many parents and adults themselves cannot detach from their blackberries? I hate that!

  • Lynne Silva-Breen, LMFT

    September 22nd, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    Thanks for all your thoughtful comments!

    d: yes, parents are behind the curve when it comes to technology, and give up when they feel ignorant or naive. But parents still buy most of it, so they must have a basic sense of what it will do once it’s in their home.

    carol: 9 is just on the edge of technology expertise. I think that your granddaughter has a fighting chance if her parents hold appropriate limits, and help her with the technology they do allow to manage it well.

    wl: yes, agree. See my point about allowing the average kid to manage themselves on and off line.

    Sally: absolutely! hence my first point about modeling. Technology hasn’t just turned the heads of children; the adults are often more head over heals in love with it because they know life WITHOUT it! I see adults more compulsive about email/text/phone messages because these are work related. Many jobs have 24/7 availability built into them. Individuals must learn how to self-manage, something many of us never learned in the first place. It makes for very reactive, driven adults.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.