Understanding Your Internet Parenting Style and How It Affects Your Parental Mediation

Did you know that understanding the type of internet parenting style you have can affect how you interact with your child? Researchers have defined the four types of parenting styles, which can be applied to digital parenting. The four types are Permissive, Neglectful, Authoritarian, and Authoritative. Of these four types, Authoritative internet parenting style is associated with higher levels of mental health, self-esteem, academic performance, lower levels of child Internet use, and lesser instances of cyberbullying perpetration.

The Four Internet Parenting Styles

Permissive Internet Parenting Style

Do any of these statements sound like you?
1. I set rules for my child’s internet usage, but I rarely enforce them
2. I think my child will learn best with little interference from me

 

Parents who allow their child total freedom and do not establish rules around Internet use are said to have a Permissive Internet Parenting Style. These caregivers tend to refrain from confrontations, often giving in to their child’s preferences and choices surrounding Internet use. In addition, these parents rarely provide guidance regarding their child’s online behaviours. Research has found that this type of Internet Parenting Style is associated with higher levels of Internet use among children1 and increased risk of addictive Internet use2. In addition, children influenced by this Parenting Style are at greater risk of engaging in socially undesirable behaviours like physical aggression, cheating, stealing, rule-breaking and property destruction3.

 

Neglectful Internet Parenting Style

 

Do any of these statements sound like you?

1. I seldom talk to my child about what they do and/or whom they meet via the Internet
2. I rarely talk to my child about the kinds of information they disclose online

Parents who display low levels of control and involvement in their child’s Internet use have what is called a Neglectful Internet Parenting Style. These caregivers neither guide nor restrict their child’s Internet use, but give free reign to their children’s habits. Compared to children whose parents adopt an Authoritarian or Authoritative Internet Parenting Style, children who notice such a laissez-faire parenting style tend to spend more time on the Internet daily4.

 

Authoritarian Internet Parenting Style

 

Do any of these statements sound like you?

1. I’m always with my child when he/she surfs the Internet
2. I have strict rules around digital media use, and my child should always follow them

 

Parents who establish clearly defined rules about Internet use and demand an unconditional obedience to them display an Authoritarian Internet Parenting Style. These caregivers tend to control their child’s online behaviours, as well as impose strict rules on the duration of their Internet use. In addition, they may use punishments or harsh discipline to ensure their rules are adhered to. Research on this type of Internet Parenting Style has revealed an association with increased risk of pathological Internet use5 and a greater risk of engaging in socially undesirable behaviours like physical aggression and cheating6.

 

Authoritative Internet Parenting Style

 

Do any of these statements sound like you?

1. I talk to my child about his/her Internet use and we make rules about responsible digital habits together
2. I constantly advise my kids on how to use the Internet appropriately and safely

 

Parents who establish clear and practical rules about Internet use and provide guidance on how to use the Internet appropriately have an Authoritarian Internet Parenting Style. These caregivers tend to discuss and co-create rules about responsible Internet use with their children. In addition, they tend to avoid explicit restrictions. Instead, by having open communication with their children, they trust their child’s regulation of their own Internet behaviours.Compared to other Internet Parenting Styles, research has found that the Authoritative Internet Parenting Style is associated with positive outcomes such as higher levels of psychological and cognitive functioning, mental health, self-esteem7, and academic performance8. More recently, psychologists have found that this Internet Parenting Style is associated with lower levels of child Internet use9, lesser instances of cyberbullying perpetration and victimisation10 and less behavioural maladjustments among youths11.

 

What is Parental Mediation?

 

Parental mediation refers to the different strategies that parents use to mediate their child’s use and experience of digital media. To date, research has delineated these strategies into the following categories: Active mediation, Restrictive mediation, and Technical mediation. Active mediation is characterised by active parental involvement in their child’s Internet use: parents may co-share the screen with their children, which facilitates discussion about safe and responsible Internet use. In turn, they are likely to collaborate with their child on establishing rules around using the Internet. Restrictive mediation is characterised by the establishment of rules and restrictions the duration and content of Internet use. Technical mediation is characterised by the use of software and apps to enable parents to track their child’s online activities or limit their Internet access. Finally, Diversionary mediation is characterised by parents’ active and intentional efforts to divert their children from video gaming. Parents who employ diversionary mediation strategies tend to encourage their children to pursue alternative activities – typically those that are deemed healthier and pro-social like participating in Co-Curricular Activities (CCA), attending after-school tuition classes, reading books, and playing musical instruments

 

So, what does this mean for you?

 

Internet Parenting Styles influence the kinds of parental mediation strategies that you may use to regulate your child’s Internet use. For example, researchers have found that parents who employ Authoritative Internet Parenting Styles tend to combine Active and Restrictive mediation strategies12, while parents who employ an Authoritarian Internet Parenting Style tend to rely more on Restrictive mediation strategies13.While researchers have found that imposing rigid restrictions tends to reduce a child’s excessive Internet use14, we must also bear in mind that Parenting Styles and mediation strategies are not mutually exclusive. Often, parents will exhibit practices that reflect a combination of Internet Parenting Styles – much of which depend on the content of digital media, the context in which such media is viewed, and their child’s own personalities.  What may be most helpful is to approach these categories and strategies with flexibility and an open mind. Reflect on your own Internet Parenting Style(s) and strategies of parental mediation and ask yourself what types of practices may be most beneficial to you and your children. Experiment with a mix of mediation strategies; and more importantly, let an open channel of communication between you and your children pave the way for the creation of healthy and safe digital habits that can enrich your whole family. If you’re a parent or caretaker and curious to learn more, continue to watch this space! This is the first post in a series of 9 for parents to learn about cultivating healthy digital habits in children. Next week, we look into understanding Screen Time Management: if you’ve ever found yourself wondering just how much screen time is too much, or how to go about setting media rules with your kids, our tips can help develop your parental mediation strategies around this issue.

 

References

 

1. Valcke, M., Bonte, S., De Wever, B., & Rots, I. (2010). Internet parenting styles and the impact on Internet use of primary school children. Computers & Education, 55(2), 454-464; Özgür, H. (2016). The relationship between Internet parenting styles and Internet usage of children and adolescents. Computers in Human Behavior, 60, 411-424.
2. Cheung, C. K., Yue, X. D., & Wong, D. S. W. (2015). Addictive Internet Use and Parenting Patterns Among Secondary School Students in Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(8), 2301-2309.
3. Pinquart, M. (2017). Associations of parenting dimensions and styles with externalizing problems of children and adolescents: An updated meta-analysis. Developmental psychology, 53(5), 873.
4. Özgür, H. (2016)
5. Xiuqin, H., Huimin, Z., Mengchen, L., Jinan, W., Ying, Z., & Ran, T. (2010). Mental health, personality, and parental rearing styles of adolescents with Internet addiction disorder. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 13(4), 401-406.
6. Pinquart, M. (2017)
7. Steinberg, L. (1990). Authoritative parenting and adolescent adjustment across varied ecological niches.
8. Chapell, M. S., & Overton, W. F. (1998). Development of logical reasoning in the context of parental style and test anxiety. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly (1982-), 141-156.
9. Valcke et al. (2010)
10. Elsaesser, C., Russell, B., Ohannessian, C. M., & Patton, D. (2017). Parenting in a digital age: A review of parents’ role in preventing adolescent cyberbullying. Aggression and violent behaviour, 35, 62-72.
11. Pinquart (2017)
12. Eastin, M. S., Greenberg, B. S., & Hofschire, L. (2006). Parenting the internet. Journal of communication, 56(3), 486-504.
13. Kalmus, V., Blinka, L., & Olafsson, K. (2015). Does it matter what mama says: Evaluating the role of parental mediation in European adolescents’ excessive internet use. Children & Society, 29(2), 122-13
14. Kalmus et al. (2015)