- Raising a child is no easy feat, and a lot of factors that go into being a parent have changed over the past few decades.
- Social media can cause parents to questions themselves often or feel pressure to have perfect kids, but it can also help parents have an online network where they can seek out advice and support.
- Parents today may sometimes opt to put their children in front of screens rather than let them play outside, which wasn’t really the case 20 years ago.
- Both parents and children can be more disconnected and less present because of screen time, so they must actively try to be mindful.
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Today’s parents are living in a very different world than the one their own parents grew up in – or raised children in.
Oftentimes parents are influenced by their environment and certain trends, so it’s really not surprising that raising a child is now is different than it was a few decades ago, especially when you look at all of the new technological advances we’ve seen since.
Here’s a look at how being a parent has changed in the last 20 years because of technology.
Social media can cause parents to second guess themselves.
- Sattalat phukkum/Shutterstock
Social media can impact children, and it can also affect parents by making them feel like there is someone watching and judging everything they’re doing.
Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician, children’s environmental health advocate and founder of Happiest Baby, told Insider that seeing the polished, idealized visions of what being a parent should be on social media can make parents seriously question their choices.
“[Idealized online posts] can make new moms and dads doubt that they’re ‘doing it right,’ and can lead to analysis paralysis every time they enter a discussion about parenting, like figuring out the best, smartest, most moral decisions on things like vaccinations and bed-sharing,” said Karp.
Today, some parents might feel inclined to be “best friends” with their children.
- Don Arnold/Getty Images
These days, there’s a good chance you’ve seen parents post photos of their kids with captions like “My best friend.”
But some experts say this relatively new urge for parents to feel like they need to be friends with their children isn’t exactly ideal. And, constantly displaying a parent-child relationship online doesn’t exactly help.
Alison Rogers, former child and family therapist and co-author of “Breathing Space for New Mothers,” told Insider that she believes many adults act like friends instead of parents because they feel a lot of guilt about their time spend at work.
“They feel like they are rarely completely with their child as their attention is divided between work obligations and parenting. They compensate by making decisions that please their child. In the past, parents were more likely to make decisions for their child’s long-term welfare, even if it made their child mad at them,” said Rogers.
“Over the past few decades, I increasingly see parents who want to be their child’s best friend. They’d rather not be the authority figure if it makes their child unhappy in the moment,” she told Insider.
They are also expected to be part of every aspect of their kid’s lives.
Some experts argue that in today’s world, parents are much more involved in their child’s life than they ever were before, whether they’re using online systems to track exam grades or making long-distance video calls.
But, this also means kids don’t have that sense of independence that they once had.
Dr. Lea Lis, adult and child psychiatrist, told Insider that she believes much of this comes from the increased set of rules and regulations parents feel they have to follow in order to get parenting “right.”
“Parents are encouraged to get more involved. We have seen the rise of the helicopter parent; monitoring homework and every second of their free time,” Lis said.
She told Insider that this is especially an issue for teenagers and their parents, as these young adults often feel like they should be doing more at every second of the day because they feel pressured to get into a good college.
“Their parents suffer from the same anxiety, push them to perform, rather than socialize, and are afraid to let them fail,” she added.
Today’s parents seemingly have it easier when it comes to keeping track of their kids.
- REUTERS/Hazir Reka
Figuring out your kid’s location wasn’t always so simple and it likely led many parents 20 years ago to worry about their child, especially in the case of changed plans or missed curfews.
Thanks to cell phones and modern technology, a watchful parent can keep a pretty close eye on their kids, which can be a positive thing in terms of safety.
Janice M. Robinson-Celeste, founder and editor-in-chief of Successful Black Parenting magazine, told Insider that being able to track a child’s location can “offer some peace of mind” to parents who tend to worry often.
Today, parents need to pay more attention to what their kids are absorbing online.
Dr. Rick Capaldi, practicing family therapist and author of “21st Century Parenting,” told Insider that it’s important for people to recognize that children face dangers and challenges, like cyberbullying, that a lot of older adults didn’t experience when they were growing up.
After all, decades ago, the internet was still in some of its earliest stages in terms of developing social-media platforms and chat rooms. Plus, kids weren’t able to access the internet at all times from portable devices.
Today, though, parents are often expected to monitor their children’s internet access closely, which can be a huge challenge.
“[Kids] spend more time staring into screens than we ever imagined possible, absorbing incredible amounts of information, oftentimes beyond a parent’s control. The consequence of these influences and societal pressures can be horrifying,” he added.
Both parents and children can feel more disconnected and less present because of screen time.
All of that screen time has other negative effects as well, like leaving parents and children feeling more disconnected than ever before.
Joree Rose, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told Insider that this means “parents have to work extra hard in practicing and role-modeling presence with their children.”
Rose explained that, in recent years, mindfulness plays a much more important role in parenting.
“This is a very different paradigm from the ‘kids should be seen and not heard’ mindset of the 1950s. Now, parents not only need to hear their kids, but also value their experience and help them to increase their emotional intelligence so they can learn to self-regulate their overwhelming thoughts and emotions,” she told Insider.
There’s often pressure for parents to create the illusion of perfection for social media.
Social media can put a lot of pressure on kids, but these platforms also make parents feel like they need to step up their game no matter what they’re doing.
Rebecca Jackson, vice president of programs and outcomes at Brain Balance Achievement Centers, told Insider that this added pressure “of unrealistic perfection” is just another thing some parents tend to stress over.
“The widespread addition of social media to our lives has turned what used to be private family moments into a public stage, with all of the celebrations and pressure that go along with having an audience for our every move,” she added.
She said this can put pressure on parents to make sure their kids have clean faces, brushed hair, coordinated outfits just so daily life is “post-worthy.”
Parents may opt to put their children in front of screens rather than let them play outside.
20 years ago, it may not have been unusual to let your kids independently play outside for hours on end. But Jackson said over the past few years, many parents have changed what their kids can and cannot do and have become focused on “structured activities, including more time inside.”
“Time inside for most kids beyond 8 years of age seems to revolve around various versions of screens and technology. While much of this technology can be entertaining, educational, and provide value, it nearly always involves less movement and muscle engagement,” she said.
In some cases, seriously restricting outdoor playtime can make it tough for kids to foster a sense of independence or feel comfortable being out in the world on their own.
With so much convenient technology, parents also have an easier time capturing memorable moments with their children.
- Flickr/Kevin Dooley/C.C. by 2.0
Fortunately for today’s parents who are a bit tech-savvy, smartphones with cameras make it easy to capture and remember every special moment, said Robinson-Celeste.
“Cell phones allow for daily documentation of your baby’s life from newborn to college via now easily accessible cell-phone videos and photos instead of carrying a separate camera around,” she told Insider.
And parents have more of a community to turn to than they may have before.
Having an online network isn’t always a bad thing for parents – it can give them more of a platform and allow them to connect with other parents who are dealing with similar struggles and successes.
“Communities, both online and offline, have blossomed across the country to help kith and kin commiserate and boost their confidence with a flow of smart ideas and trusted resources,” said Karp.
He said the internet has created a space for parents to share solace, support, and guidance with one another, which can be incredibly valuable for anyone who may feel alone or lost while raising their kids.