“Please, Mom, don’t post vacation photos that include me” or “Dad, stop talking on the phone while driving, its dangerous.” These are just some examples of fears raised by adolescents in a recent study by the University of Washington and the University of Michigan on the use of internet and social media in the family.

The study, undoubtedly original, for once reverses the usual perspective. Rather than apprehensive parents imposing rules and limitations on their children’s use of the internet or mobile phones, it concerns the opposite: what the expectations and demands of children are from their parents regarding the use of technology.

What our children want: more attention and to be listened to

The research analyzed the behavior of a sample of 249 American families with children aged between 10 and 17 years.

The results of this study were surprising: children were shown to be often more judicious and wise than their own parents. In fact, even for them the use of smartphones in certain situations is excessive. And it’s better to switch it off.

From the research, it shows that American teenagers demonstrate distress or embarrassment in a variety of inappropriate circumstances, for example such as when their parents post and share their photos on social media. For these children, parents should be stopped in certain circumstances. Indeed some rules for the appropriate use of technology need to be applied. These are:
– Be more available: children need to be heard, and it is far from nice when their parents are always busy on the phone or tablet;
– Greater autonomy and trust: parents should allow their children to manage independently and without interference their own usage of social networks and the Internet, trusting in their conscientiousness;
– Balanced use of technology: parents need to use technology in moderation and with balance, and not to excess. In this regard, see article covering the launch in Spain of a campaign on the risks of Whatsapp # tengotunúmero:
– Not using cell phones when driving: probably the most important rule. One that can save the life of a family – as even minimal distractions during driving can be fatal;
– Consistency of behavior: parents should practice what they preach. Its harmful and counter-instructive to ask their children not to stay too long on the Internet, and then be the first to spend hours browsing;
– Preventing unauthorized sharing: parents should not post and share photos and videos of their children without their explicit consent. Its not just a source of embarrassment, but a matter of respect.
– Protecting their children: parents should be careful to supervise children, not stifle them, but protecting them from risks that are always present. As an example for the youngest and most naive, the sad phenomenon of grooming.

Rules imposed by parents: prohibitive without listening
As evident, the main request of children from their parents is strictly emotional. They call for greater security, attention, to be listened but also trust and respect. And parents instead? What do they want from their children? It is clear from the research, (although better to say that is confirmed) that parents impart a decidedly authoritarian educational style – not one of authority – which is based on the imposition of rules, often not imparted with any level of listening and dialogue, and of restrictions and limitations. These include:

– Not using the phone at certain times, for example during school hours, while you do your homework or at night;
– Paying attention to charges: for example not using all the credit you have available, ahead of time;
– Banning certain sites: not going onto sexually explicit sites, or those which are particularly violent;
– Avoiding certain behaviour: such defamatory and offensive language, or worse, cyberbullying.

The sensible but rather utilitarian perspective of parents therefore prevails over that of virtuous and emotional children. Perhaps a common point of convergence would be good, one which brings together reason and feeling, one which is not so rule-based but rather which incorporates improvements and not just rules – and more opportunities to meet, talk and share.


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