The Three Strategies of Onlife Parenting

June 29, 2020


This article is not about telling you how to parent your child, because you are the parent not us. This article is all about bringing to your attention, what we have seen when it comes to parenting in the onlife world.

For the past several years we have been sharing that teens, unlike parents, do not see the difference between the online and the offline world, it’s just one world to them. This is why we have adopted and use the term “onlife”, which was coined by professor Luciano Floridi, given we believe it better describes the world that we and our kids live in today.

When it comes to the onlife world, we have identified three types of parenting strategies:

1. Closed range strategies

2. Open range strategies

3. Mediated range strategies

Closed Range Parenting:

We find that closed range parenting strategies are primarily based upon lack of trust and juvenoia based fear, real or imagined, surrounding the use of technology and the internet. This strategy of parenting is so concerned about the emotional, psychological, physical and social effects of technology and the internet may have on a child, it will prohibit the use of technology, or will “helicopter” or “bubble wrap” a child in suffocating parental overwatch. This strategy does very little in allowing a child to develop age-appropriate critical thinking skills and digital literacy, two important attributes that are needed in today’s onlife world.

Open Range Parenting:

We find that open range parenting, sometimes we call it free-range parenting, is based upon a lack of understanding, at times even willful blindness, of both the positive and negative consequences of unsupervised technology and internet use. Sometimes this strategy of parenting is predicated on the belief that kids should be allowed to go online without any kind of parental overwatch or boundaries. Often technology and the internet in this category are used as a digital pacifier, rather than the un-mediated and powerful two-way communication tool that it is. Often this parenting strategy is based upon the belief that “bad stuff will never happen to my child”, and often abdicates onlife parental responsibilities to others such as teachers, or the overuse of technological parental software/hardware controls.

Mediated Range Parenting:

We find that mediated range parenting has struck a balance between closed range and open range parenting. At its foundation, mediated range parenting has aged based incremental trust, is evidence-based focused, and does not allow an anecdotal or emotional approach to onlife parenting based upon fear. This range of parenting often utilizes a synthesized three-pillar approach:

  • On-going parental participation in their child’s onlife world,
  • On-going parental communication specific to what is happening in their child’s onlife world, and
  • On-going “overt” rather than “covert” parental overwatch (personal spot checks, software/hardware monitoring) of what is happening in their child’s onlife world.

The third bullet, “parental overwatch” is often decreased, and even eliminated, as the child demonstrates responsibility, critical thinking and good digital literacy over time.

We have found that mediated range parenting has several advantages:

It’s based upon incremental trust that is age-appropriate,

  • It creates parental participation and communication which studies have shown decrease the likelihood of a youth engaging in onlife less than desirable behaviour,
  • It creates critical thinking which is a needed skill in today’s onlife world,
  • It creates an environment where learning about digital literacy is a family responsibility, and
  • It mentors youth to act independently and create agency over their use of technology and the internet, especially when parents are not around, as they get older.

The only negative that we could identify with mediated range parenting; it takes time and effort when compared to the other two strategies. Our question, “Aren’t the most precious things in this world, our kids, worth that time and effort?”

Remember, when it comes to the onlife world, be your child’s best parent and not their best friend, there is a difference. We can be parently while being friendly at the same time, the two can coexist. We believe mediated range parenting strikes that balance.

Digital Food For Thought

The White Hatter Team

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