Perhaps the greatest change in parent-child relationship has occurred in the past two decades, with the advent of the digital age. This change is most noticeable in the relationship between an adolescent child and the parent. The knee-jerk reaction is to believe that the digital age has deteriorated the relationship between the parent and adolescent child. But, a more rational approach shows that such stressors have always existed in different avatars and technology has in fact improved the relationship between the parent and adolescent child. The digital age has altered the hierarchial nature of conventional parent-child relationship into a form that is more equal, intimate, and egalitarian than it has been in the past.
Four integral features of digital communication have influenced the parent-child relationship in the past decade -
- Persistence: “Forgive and forget”, the maxim of traditional communication, has morphed into “forgive but persist” in digital communication.
- Changeability: Technology, as some claim half in jest, is perpetually in beta stage. The high turnover rate of technology tools, and the ease with which the digital native adolescent adapts to it, leaves the parent often in a state of lag.
- Scalability: When I was an adolescent, my social circle was well within the grasp of my parents because of geographic limits. The expanse of social media makes this more difficult.
- Access to data: While mortification was limited in the past at being dropped by a mother at the movie theatre or such like, now the easy access to data and information can sway the relationship between child and parent.
It is undeniable that in terms of parenting and parent-child relationships, the digital era is vastly different from the one that preceded it, but it must also be acknowledged that digital tools have indeed benefitted parenting in that the village that takes to raise a child is now a global village. Parents themselves are different today and as it has always been, parents have to adapt and mesh their parenting attitudes and activities with the digitally rich environment that their children are born into. It takes conscious effort and constant course correction to bypass the pitfalls of digital tools and enhance the riches that these tools bring into the parent-child bond.
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