The Connected Parent: An Expert Guide to Parenting in a Digital World

Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing, Internet, Media and Content and Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


Urs Gasser and John Palfrey


Basic Books, 2020


Parents should engage positively with children in addressing issues with digital media, and keep an open mind about positive aspects of digital culture.

Policy Relevance

Parents should set age-appropriate limits on digital media use.

Main Points

  • “Connected parenting” means engaging positively with young people about digital issues; parents should use technology to model good behavior and embrace the benefits of digital culture.
  • Teens spend about nine hours a day using digital entertainment and social media; tweens spend about six hours a day.
    • From age zero to six, tight limits on screen time are best.
    • From age six to twelve, screen time should be limited to two hours a day.
    • From age thirteen to sixteen, screen time should not exceed four hours a day.
    • Children of all ages should turn off devices an hour before they intend to sleep.
  • Real-world examples of problems that arise from oversharing online can help young people understand the value of their privacy; common examples involve sexting and messages that affect job or college prospects.
  • Social media does not increase the risk that children will be physically harmed by predators, but young people do regularly face the risk of psychological harm from online bullying.
  • In Europe and the United States, rates of Internet usage and screen time have increased, but anxiety and depression have not risen in Europe as much as in the United States, suggesting that digital technology might not cause the increase in mental health problems.
    • Parents should encourage depressed or anxious children to take a break from screens.
    • Children should have device-free time.
    • Children should spend time outdoors.
  • Some young people have something like an addiction to immersive gaming, called “internet gaming disorder;” however, the risk that playing violent video games will make young people violent is low.
  • Parents should seek to foster diversity, true equality, and inclusion in online environments.
    • Incidents of online racial discrimination are rising.
    • Those who offend online should apologize and strive to do better.
    • Face-to-face conversations about sensitive topics like race and sexuality are better than digital conversations.
  • Parents should keep an open mind about the use of technology in learning; the most worrisome trend is a decline in children’s reading skills, and parents should make reading a part of family life.

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