Last Updated on December 1, 2020
Virtual relationships are an inextricable part of this generation’s growing experience. Until recently, parenting this new generation of kids online meant pushing back from being too immersed in online activities and preventing them from spending most of their time on their screens.
But with the coronavirus pandemic, the focus now shifts on how to ensure that young kids and teens enjoy a healthy, productive and safe experience as they attend their online classes, connect with their friends and forge new relationships online.
Thus, the theme of this year’s Teen Congress which is “Virtual Relationships in the New Norm: Teen Perspectives, Hard Facts, and Practical Solutions“.
Presented by The Medical City Institute of Pediatrics, Teen Congress 2020 was moderated by Dr. Gigi Cruz and features presentations from Dr. Nerissa Nando and Dr. Geraldine Anne Lobo as well as testimonials from a handful of teenagers who spoke about their first-hand account on their digital lives during the pandemic.
Here are some of the key insights presented during the webinar:
On “Positive Parenting”
Positive parenting is defined as the continual relationship of parent and child that includes caring, teaching, leading, communicating, and providing for the needs of a child consistently and unconditionally. (Seay et al 2014)
While “Positive Parenting” is all the buzz today, the classic concept of “Authoritative Parenting” – a style that focuses on creating a positive relationship between parents and their children – still works in this day and age.
On the Importance of Role Modeling
Not only does healthy online behavior start with a good parent- child relationship but it is also influenced by the behaviors that parents model. As kids and teens do not have a built-in skill set on how to behave online, most of their behaviors are modeled from their parents.
As most parents are working from home (WFH), it is imperative that they set a good example on how to behave when using their computers and phones and when interacting with other people online.
On Healthy “Real-Life” Relationship as a Baseline
The foundation of a healthy virtual relationship is a healthy real-life relationship.
That is why it is very important for parents to foster a good relationship with their kids as behaviors and values they learn in face-to-face relationships tend to be carried over in virtual or online interaction.
Moreover, parents should develop a close and effective healthy real-life relationship with their children at an early age as gaps in relationships tend to grow over time and it is much harder to bridge the gap once children turn into teens.
On Dating Online
Whether teens should or shouldn’t be allowed to use dating apps is entirely up to their parents. Families have different values and dynamics that need to be respected and there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to online dating.
But when it comes to navigating the world of virtual relationships, the common denominator should always be open and honest communication between the parent and the child.
On Raising Younger Teens
Kids who are 12 to 14 years old are just starting to build their network of social interaction with a lot of them socializing in the online world for the first time. Since they are more impulsive and prone to peer pressure and cyberbullying, it is vital that parents are in constant contact with their children and are aware of their activities.
Due to the pandemic, kids and young teens are not yet allowed to go out as often as they want. Consequently, they become more invested in their gadgets and their presence online.
In order to engage with their children, parents should be resourceful and find creative ways to build meaningful relationships with their kids. Examples of engagement activities include playing games and watching TV together as well as offline activities like sharing meals, talking and bonding.
On Parenting Older Teens
Being online is part of the typical adolescent experience. Rather than controlling what their teens do online, parents should engage them in shared decision making. Older teens should be given the chance to weigh things and learn from the possible consequences of their behavior on the internet.
Parents should also emphasize the importance of a “digital diet” and teach teens about the vital roles that sleep and exercise play in their development.