What's your digital parenting style?

While there are as many variations as there are mums and dads, researchers have identified three main digital parenting styles. Which of the three best describes you? And which is most likely to keep your child safe, happy and responsible online?

Your 12-year-old wants TikTok. How do you respond?

Do you:

  1. Download the app yourself and use it for a few days before deciding.
  2. Roll your eyes a bit but say okay, because you know all her friends are on it.
  3. Simply say “no - end of story.

Your answer can tell you a lot about your digital parenting style - even if you didn’t know you had a digital parenting style.

Maybe you didn’t even know you had one. But if you have a child aged between 2 and 18 - you have definitely evolved a digital parenting style that shapes your thinking and behaviours around how technology is used in your family. 

3 main styles

A study by Dr. Alexandra Samuel based on data from 10,000 North American families found three distinct styles of digital parenting: Limiters, who strictly limit any kind of technology use; Enablers, who directly or indirectly encourage their kids to spend time with their devices; and Mentors, who actively engage with the digital world of their children, often participating side-by-side.


The study found positive effects from each of three styles, which were evenly distributed across the study population. “Limiters raise the tough questions about what tomorrow’s world will look like,” Samuel notes.

“Enablers recognise that the digital world will be a huge part of their kids’ lives. Mentors prepare their kids for the digital world, so they can be responsible digital citizens.”

But it was parents who adopted the third style - the Mentors - whose children were most likely to stay safe online. 

"Digital exiles"

The children of strict Limiter parents ran the risk of feeling like “digital exiles” when parents withheld technology or ignored its importance in the life of their children. The result? Those kids often seek out digital distractions, take risks and misuse screen-time. 

“Once they get online,” the study noted, “it’s the children of limiters who are most likely to get into patterns of repeated, problematic online behaviour.” That included: 

  • Deliberate or accidentally accessing online porn
  • Engaging in online chat with a stranger
  • Posting rude or hostile comments
  • Impersonating an adult online
  • Impersonating a peer online

“Once they get online, it’s the children of limiters who are most likely to get into patterns of repeated, problematic online behaviour.”

Trusting "good kids"

Enabler parents were at the other end of the digital parenting spectrum. They were apt to show too much trust in their children’s judgment, with a laissez-faire approach characterised by a lack of boundaries. Such parents may mistakenly assume that “good kids” - like theirs - will not be vulnerable to online risks or misuse. 


Yet research clearly shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

The “goodness” of children cannot protect them from online dangers, anymore than it can shield them from real-life dangers.

Parents who don’t provide guidance and boundaries for their digital children are setting them up for risk.

Sharing the digital joy

Mentor parents, who accounted for 33% of those studied, emerged as the most successful at preparing their children to participate responsibly in a digital world. Their strategies were all about communication with their children, being open to online experiences, modelling positive behaviours and sharing the digital joy.

These parents were, by far, the most likely to:

  • Talk with their child about how to use technology, the internet or an app responsibly
  • Research specific devices, programs or apps their child requested
  • Show their child a book, article, video or program to help them learn about technology
  • Enroll their child in a class, camp or workshop to improve their tech skills
  • Show their child how to use a new app or website
  • Play a video game with their child

With Family Zone's strong, flexible parental controls, you can share the digital joy while keeping your kids safe and sensible.

Find out more about mentoring your digital child with Family Zone, and start your free trial today.




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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Cyber Safety, digital parenting, mentoring

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