Challenges of Being a Parent in the 21st Century

Technological advances have transformed the 21st century and presented today's parents with a new set of challenges, compared with previous generations. Also, changes in family relationships and morality have led 76 percent of Americans to say they think moral values are declining, according to a Gallup poll 1. Parents need to stay abreast of current events, technology and media to keep up with their kids and all the changes under way.

Technological Advances

With the accelerated advances of technology, kids are receiving their first cell phones at younger ages. In 2012, almost 60 percent of children between the ages of 8 and 12 owned a cell phone, according to 2. In the 12- to 17-year-old age group, 78 percent of kids have a cell phone, with almost half of them owning a smartphone, according to a 2013 report conducted by the Pew Research Center. This prevalence, along with general connectivity to computers, gaming systems and tablets, puts the Internet into easy access for kids of nearly every age. It’s imperative that parents understand how the Internet works and how to monitor and control children’s usage by using parental control options on computers and devices.

Communication Changes

Communication styles have changed in the new century and people tend to talk more openly about a variety of subjects, such as sexuality, gender equality and religion. Children may be more likely to ask tough questions of parents, in response to ideas they hear in the media or from peers. For example, you may hear questions about alternative worship practices or same-sex marriage from your curious tween at the dinner table. Stay informed about current events and issues so you feel comfortable addressing your child's direct questions. Kids often enmesh themselves in communication on social media websites and talk or text message on cell phones. If you stay up to date with technology, you can communicate with your kids via cell phones and the Internet to stay connected, too.

Decisions about Media

Media plays a significant role in the lives of children, and parents must be both the policymakers and the police when it comes to the rules about media use in the family. Media exists in many forms, is virtually everywhere and consists of content available on television, video games, computers and mobile devices, according to the Center of Media and Human Development at Northwestern University. Approximately 63 percent of parents create and enforce rules about the types of media devices and media content used by their children and 50 percent enforce rules about the amount of time children spend with media devices. Negotiating these rules can be challenging, especially if a partner disagrees or if children push for more media usage. Your children will encounter media when they're not at home, too, when you won't be able to monitor and control what they see. To impart your values, spend time talking about media messages and what your kids. This will help your children make responsible decisions when apart from you.

Children’s Safety

It used to be that parents warned children about taking candy from strangers. Now, parents warn children about online predators on social media. Concerns about child pornography, identity theft, kidnapping and cyberbullying are valid fears for today’s parents. Research conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center reveals that approximately 25 percent of the children surveyed have experienced cyberbullying at some time in their lives 6. Teach children to never share personal information online or agree to meet anyone from the Internet. Encourage kids to always come to you with concerns about anything that happens online. Other safety concerns can also threaten parental peace, including terrorism, natural disasters and accidents. Public schools have increased emergency preparedness to enable staff to respond to a variety of different crises. Parents have a right and responsibility to learn school preparedness plans so they understand how to proceed in an emergency.