Chapter 7: Technology’s Influence on Parent-Child Relationships
Recall when you began to be active with technology — when you got your first smartphone, perhaps, when you became active on social media, when your homework and school projects began taking up more time online, and/or when you started using technology for entertainment, perhaps playing videogames and/or streaming media. Now reflect on your parents’ reaction to your use (and possibly that of your siblings). Consider Wiggin’s intersection of agency and communion for two people in a relationship. Identify a key discussion or negotiation you had around your technology use. Where would you place yourself? Your parent?
Interview one or both of your parents (or the people in your life who actively parented you during middle school and high school). Create a list of questions about the ways in which they mediated your technology use. Were they active and engaged? Were they restrictive? Were they permissive? Talk to your parents about why they mediated technology in your household the way they did. Ask them about their memories of those years and their interactions with you. What influenced their actions? Do they have any regrets? Do they feel successful? If they were to make three recommendations to parents of 10–14 year olds about parental involvement in children’s technology use and maintaining a positive relationship, what would they be?
In these two videos, fathers take to the internet asserting their roles as parents. In one case, the father (Tommy) is addressing his daughter’s behavior publicly; in the other, the father (Brad) is advocating on behalf of his daughter. Both videos, when posted, went viral.
View both and answer the questions below. These questions help identify the father’s motivations for using the virtual world as a sounding board for his frustrations, the possible consequences or benefits of his actions, and the potential impacts on the father-daughter relationship. Provide recommendations on how to handle the situation the fathers faced to provide a (more) peaceful/positive resolution that maintains the relationship and respects the roles of both the fathers and the daughters.
- What is the father concerned about? What is the father’s motivation for taking his concern to the Internet?
- What does the father hope to accomplish? How is it related to his role as a parent? Does the father demonstrate a balance/imbalance of warmth and demandingness? What do you see in his demonstration of agency vs. communion?
- What would the father’s action do to impact his daughter’s well-being? Why? (How would his daughter feel when she learned about this video)?
- How (if at all) do you see the father’s response as reflecting the daughter’s age (approximately 12–14 years)?
- What would the father’s action do to impact the father-daughter relationship? Why?
- Would you recommend that the father take a different tact? If so, what? If not, why is this the appropriate response?
At the conclusion of Shin et al.’s (2021, 441:25) review of the literature on technology and parent-child relationships, they pose a variety of questions for future research. Consider each or one of these questions alone or with another person or in a small group. You might want to pose these questions to your friends and family, particularly your parent(s), and get their take on future design considerations.
- How can technology empower children to initiate conversation and interaction with parents in families living together? If technology is designed with novel accessible functions and forms that can empower children to initiate interactions with their parents, can these functions help children’s perception of family belonging?
- How can technology create communication topics (triggers) through shared activities?
- How can technology effectively support households with children who have a wider age gap (e.g., 3 and 12 years old)?
- How can technology support a parent-child dyad’s different expectations and needs in communicating with each other? Is synchronous communication always suitable for the target dyad? Younger children tend to be more engaged with their parents, while adolescent and older children take their privacy and me-time more seriously.
- What are the other family members’ preferences about privacy? While the target dyad might feel favorable toward, for instance, always-on technologies, this may be uncomfortable for others who are not close enough to share details of their lives.
- How can technology support the constantly changing relationship between parents and children throughout developmental stages and life courses? Designs that support a relationship should also be able to dynamically change when the relationship does.
- How can technologies support parent-child interactions, instead of serving as a replacement for them?
There are many guides for parents about protecting their children online. Identify hypothetical children in a hypothetical family and identify some online resources. Keep an eye to both the development of the child (what are they using, technology-wise? What do they understand, rule-wise?) and the context and culture of the family that might influence the ways in which the parent attempts to mediate the child’s use. Compare sources of advice. Which would you find most helpful and recommend to parents?