Reactive Vs. Proactive Parenting: Tech That Helps
What Makes A Safe Phone For Kids
Plenty of devices claim to be kid-friendly. But the reality is, a safe phone for kids needs more than parental controls.
With kids facing more dangers and complexities from a digital world than ever before, it is important as parents to stay educated.
Predators, cyberbullying, pornography, drugs, violent content, and screen addiction are plaguing our kids. So how do you as a parent or caregiver help your kids navigate and thrive despite the bleak landscape? Queue proactive parenting.
What is Proactive Vs. Reactive Parenting?
The gist is this: reactive parenting waits until a child has crossed a boundary to get involved, while proactive parenting communicates boundaries (and consequences for crossing them) clearly in advance.
Nowadays reactive parenting can come in even more ways with kids running into trouble on the internet.
Reactive parenting with technology looks like disciplining or helping a child after they’ve already run into trouble online, while proactive parenting looks like preparing and empowering a child before anything bad ever happens.
Proactive Parenting in a Tech World
Being informed as a parent is crucial, but even so, active parenting is much easier said than done.
According to data from Pew Research Center, “Two-thirds of parents in the U.S. say parenting is harder today than it was 20 years ago, with many citing technologies – like social media or smartphones – as a reason.”3
So how do we do it?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Every parent and child is different, but there are some simple approaches you can take to better protect your kids online. One of them is arming yourself (and your child) with the right tools.
Technology Made For Kids, Not Adults
The vast majority of technological innovation in the last decade has been focused on providing adults with more freedom and convenience, not necessarily safety for kids. It’s only recently that major tech companies have put any thought into how these innovations are impacting children.
Their response to parental pressure—adding parental controls to mobile devices and other tech—is pretty much the definition of reactive.
We’re encouraged that more companies are adding parental controls and are developing responsible parent monitoring software. But the best approach, particularly for young children, is to prevent exposure to harmful influences in the first place.
Proactive Approaches to Social Media Dangers
Exposure to social media is a big parental concern, with most parents saying children age 12 or younger should not have access to it.4 And for good reason: there is simply no way to make it safe for young children.
Social networks list recommended age ranges (typically 13) but these networks have proven to prioritize profits over child safety.
Any device that provides internet access effectively provides social media access. The only safe route for children too young for social media is a device that doesn’t allow it.
Any other approach—whether it be parental controls or parent-monitoring software—will inevitably put parents in a reactive position by doing damage control after-the-fact.
Devices That Proactively Limit Screen Time
Another common technological concern for parents is excessive screen time. More and more research is proving that spending too much time on screens is dangerous. Excessive screen time for children has now been linked to negative child behaviors and issues ranging from obesity to autism.5
Curbing screen time is one of the main reasons parents use parental control settings. But for kids just wading into the digital world, it’s not the best option out there. Not only can many parental controls be sidestepped, but they often open the door to children obsessing even more about the apps and games they have limited access to. Many parents complain of the constant barrage of additional screen time requests—whether it’s just a few minutes to send a couple more text messages or another hour to play their favorite game.
One of the most common questions we hear from parents is “how do I give my child access to the technology they need without exposing them to too much risk?” Our answer: give them devices built specifically to help kids learn tech in steps.
Tech in Steps
Taking a tech-in-steps approach with your child is a prime example of proactive parenting in the digital age. Gabb’s lineup of devices was designed for this exact reason. Each enables increasing freedom and offers incrementally more digital tools but all of them draw a hard line when it comes to internet access, social media, and addictive games.
Parenting has never been easy and it may very well be harder today than ever before. No parent is perfect, no two kids are the same, and no solution is a cure-all. But taking proactive steps doesn’t have to be overwhelming and the effort can help your family thrive in the digital age, instead of feeling like you’re just trying to survive.
1 “Parenting Dimensions and Styles: A Brief History and Recommendations for Future Research” | National Library of Medicine
2 “4 Types of Parenting Styles and Their Effects on Kids” | Very Well Family
3 “Parenting Children in the Age of Screens” | Pew Research Center
4 “Parenting approaches and concerns related to digital devices” | Pew Research Center5 “Association Between Screen Time Exposure in Children at 1 Year of Age and Autism Spectrum Disorder at 3 Years of Age” | JAMA Network
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