Parents As Digital Role Models

Technology changes so fast these days that it’s difficult for parents to keep up with it all. What rules should you set? And what rules would your child be willing to follow?

It all starts when your child gets their first electronic device. Many parents give their toddlers an iPad or tablet to keep them entertained. Because of this early access to technology, kids don’t always learn how to use it appropriately. We spoke with Raychelle Lohmann, MS, LPC, a national-board certified counselor and author of multiple books on child psychology, to discuss how parents should manage the relationship between themselves, their children, and social media.

Set Boundaries Early

Technology has gotten so far ahead of us that we are constantly trying to keep up with it. Therefore, it’s imperative that parents establish boundaries right away. If they do, then it’s much easier to manage as time goes on. Whether it means limiting screen time while at home or monitoring their child’s internet activity, parents should express to their kids that technology is a responsibility.

In a University of Washington study, the researchers interviewed both parents and kids to discover what they expected from each other as far as technology rules. And the most eye-opening finding of it was that both the kids and parents said they want each other to be more present. Lohmann explains, “As adults, we have to lead by example. We can’t be checking emails constantly. Teens are the first to accuse us of being hypocrites if we set boundaries we don’t adhere to.”

Ms. Lohmann also states, “The most fascinating part of the study is that kids want what wewant. They’re asking for boundaries, for parents to be present, for parents to practice what they’re telling them to do. They don’t like that parents post their lives online, overshare information, and put kids’ photos up. Kids don’t want privacy!”

parent holding hands in denial


Kids Need To Learn to Connect In Person

“Parents should understand the importance of social media for their teens,” Lohmann says. “One of the things I’ve noticed that’s troublesome, is that so many communication skills are getting watered down by texting and short form conversations from social media. We are losing inter-connectedness. Social skills are a large part of adolescent relationships. And while social media and texting can aid in that, it isn’t a substitute for verbal communication.”

“Teens are over-reliant on social media. They feel the need to express themselves with pictures, icons, and and other short forms instead of verbally.” Our children need to find a balance. If kids don’t’ develop real-life communication skills, we’re really going to have a problem in the future.

Lohmann warns, “We’re losing out face-to-face time with peers. There are so many parents who say their kid plays video games for hours on end. That’s not healthy! That’s not a good choice, to be interacting with a screen for hours on end. We need to put responsibility on the adult to model, educate, and put boundaries in place.”

Why is so much emphasis placed on the behavior of the parent? “It’s the adults’ responsibility. Our children are still developing. Before smartphones and tablets, we were always talking about how much TV is a bad influence, but now they’re not watching TV. Instead, they’re listening to music, playing games, etc. So it’s important to find the right balance between all that.”


Social Media Causes Stress

While school used to be a major source of communication, now, there’s just 5 minutes between classes, and maybe a 30-minute lunch. Then after school, teens get on the bus or go to other extracurricular activities. Not much socialization happens. The result is that we have a lot of overstressed teens.

Ms. Lohmann says, “Even though they might look like adults, they aren’t. They don’t have the skills to handle everything, but we’re expecting them to do so much. Sometimes we are treating them as if they are older than they are. It amazes me, what we expect them to do, but yet we give them these responsibilities that make no sense for their age.  So social media is causing even more stress. In fact, it can create so much drama in the academic environment.”

“For example, if someone misreads something, or someone is mad and shares something about that person, it usually goes to a group of friends. This causes drama that spreads like wildfire. Schools are trying to figure out how to monitor it, but it’s become really difficult to manage at school. Which comes back around to parents setting boundaries and parents modeling the behaviors.”


As amazing as it sounds, Lohmann states that when she was working in schools, she saw parents text their kids in class. Although they know kids are in class, they still interrupt the kids for reminders.

It’s vital to set the rules, but you have to stick to them. When you don’t, what you do is create a loophole. Teens love loopholes, because they can be so creative and manipulative. As parents, we’ve been through this stage, we need to see it coming.

But that is frustrating for the teens. When the parents have different expectations for themselves and their teens, then it sometimes results in disrespect by the kids.
In conclusion, from Ms. Lohmann’s interview, it is apparent that both parents and teens need to be self-aware. Parents need to model good behavior, and be present with their children. And it’s vital to keep the communication open between parents and children.