Today I have a guest post by The Doubting Thomas. I’m really excited as I’ve never featured a parenting article on my blog before- find out more about Thomas at the end!
When I was approached by Eleanor about writing a post on parenting for her site, I won’t lie I sort of had to wonder where I’d start! I’ve written about parenting many times before on my own, and I’ve always tried to be honest and open as much as possible.
In this post, I want to give a bit of advice to new parents, and share my own experiences of being a 21st century parent.
I’ll be looking at some of the things that benefit parents in 2021 and beyond, and some of the things that may be working against us. Parenting is not an easy task, and being a 21st century parent comes with both rewards and challenges.
If you already have kids, there’s a fair chance you will either strongly agree or disagree with what I put across in this post. If kids are on your agenda in the future, I sincerely wish you the best of luck; don’t take everything I say as gospel and find your own ways of doing things.
If children are in no way part of your plans, enjoy the peace and quiet. You may be interested in reading my blog post “4 Reasons Why There’s Never a Perfect Time For Having Kids!“
So, what is being a 21st century parent all about?
We live in quite an age, don’t we?
With technology, we’re trying to teach our kids how to enjoy technology, stay safe with mobile phones, learn through tech but at the same time not spend too long doing so.
In education, we want our kids to be able to work to the best of their abilities, learn valuable life lessons, be social, make friends, get involved in activities but all the while not burn themselves out.
Socially, we want nothing more than for our kids to be safe, making sure we remind them of the possible dangers the world possesses all the while trying not to scare them off from doing anything.
It’s a bit of a minefield sometimes, and dare I say it’s only going to get a little more confusing.
In order for me to assess the trials of a 21st century parent, you might think I realistically need to get the viewpoints of a few 20th century parents too for a little bit of balance.
I’m sure you’ve heard from parents and grandparents, either under your own family tree or otherwise, about how life used to be and how things these days are either better or worse.
One thing I can say for sure is that, on the whole, attitudes have changed. How many times have you heard people say they didn’t used to worry as much “in their day”? How many times have your parents spoken about the way they were disciplined, respecting their elders, or even how they used to be able to entertain themselves or use their imagination for better?
I’ve had conversations with my parents about the “way things were” and I think being a 21st century parent is realising that the “way things were” simply isn’t achievable anymore.
It’s not quite flying cars or frequent trips to the moon like some folk back then might have imagined it to be, but the world has come on a long old way since the end of the 20th century.
Technology and social media
As a parent in his 30s, I find myself in quite a fortunate position when it comes to technology. I’m OK, I’m not great at it, but I know how things work.
My teenage years were spent on MSN Messenger, Myspace.com, and operating my Nokia or my Motorola-style phone that you’d spend most of your time flipping the top on to make you seem like a secret agent. Our one family computer was a massive thing strapped to a desk and the internet couldn’t be used if another person in the house was on the phone.
TV was basic; you watched what was on and if you didn’t like it, there wasn’t an awful lot you could do about it.
But that’s all we knew, so that was fine.
Go back further than that and it’s even more alien to the 21st century parent. We can’t even comprehend some of the things our parents tell us about, and to tell you the truth we’re already at that age where our kids in this day and age cannot believe some of the things that were different when we were kids.
Social media is another massive factor in modern parenting. For the most part, it’s unavoidable, so the big question is this…
…when do I allow my kids to have social media of their own?
Well the first thing to remember, is that you should always call the shots. If your child wants access to a site like Snapchat or TikTok and they’re under the recommended age, call me old-fashioned but I still don’t think we should be allowing them acesss.
Snapchat tells you that you cannot be using their platform if you’re under the age of 13, introducing a limited version called “Snapkidz” that doesn’t allow messages to be sent between users.
YouTube do not allow anybody under 18 to create their own channel, but with the sheer number of kids either creating content with their parents, or just with their parents’ permission, it’s getting increasingly harder to enforce this amongst keen wannabe YouTubers.
Instagram says you need to be at least 13 years of age to use their site, but there remain growing fears that kids are getting around the age restrictions and parents are not doing enough to seize control of what their children get up to online.
The dangers of social media are evident, with horrific stories of catfishing, online bullying and even to the extremes of abduction and murder originating from stories of social media activity.
In this sense, whilst we as individuals are so hooked on social media, we have a real duty of care to our kids to make sure this is introduced to them at the right age and not a second too soon.
You may be interested in reading “Social Media and Our Safety“
Work and financial awareness
We live in a world where it’s relatively common for money and power to go hand in hand. Right from the CEOs of global corporations like Amazon and Facebook who have simply too much of it, to the charities we raise money for who simply need more of it; money dictates so much of our lives.
We’re often less stressed when we have it, more stressed when we need it, deflated when we don’t earn enough of it and we work damn hard to get it.
Now I imagine a lot of children in the last few decades who are now in their later years would have a lot to say about the way things used to be when it came to money; nowadays, there are so many ways to look after our money and control our finances but in so many cases it’s so much easier to spend our money too.
The emergence of the internet over the last 20 years or so means we have access to money 24/7 and there’s so many ways to spend it quickly and conveniently. But what of our kids, growing up in this money-hungry world? Will they really know the value of money unless we as parents set a good example?
One thing I think our society needs to do better is teaching our children financial lessons in school. The basics of savings, opening a bank account (and the right one at that) and both the benefits and potential downsides to doing so much of your banking in a digital world.
I work in banking myself, and the days of popping into branches to conduct your business are reducing right before our very eyes; the development of digital ways to bank over the last 10 years is great for us parents as we’re just old enough to have a handle on things.
But we need to teach our children responsibly and as ever, teach them to be careful. With an increase of digital banking methods comes a increase of potential fraud and scammers are getting more and more sophisticated every day.
However, it isn’t just this that our kids need to know about when it comes to money. The 21st century parent also has a job to do to support their children during these days when talking more about responsibility when it comes to money.
I was always pretty level-headed when it came to saving and spending; in all honesty that’s turned into an anxiety and an overprotective nature towards my bank accounts! When our kids are going into university or starting their first job or whatever they’re doing, it’s important to guide them.
By all means, absolutely go and enjoy yourself- you’ve earned it. But maybe keep a little bit of cash to one side and try to save/invest a little if you can too.
I left school at 16 and went straight out to work, pretty much from leaving. This was just the path I was taken on. Nowadays, the 21st century parent will have their children stay in education for another two mandatory years, so already that’s a change for us all to contend with.
There are so many options for kids these days, significantly more than there would have been for a teenager decades ago. As someone who has been focused on a career for the last 15 years or so, I’d suggest this.
If you are able to leave education and take some time out, do it. If the fates allow that you can travel the world (should you wish to do it) and make some memories before you come back and start your adult life, why not? You only get one shot.
Everyone’s situations will be different but you’ll have time for house, kids, mortgage and all of that stuff when you get to your 20s and onwards.
So, how hard IS IT being a 21st century parent?
Well, this is the million-dollar question!
Truthfully, I don’t know if anyone can truly answer this without having personally experienced it from all angles.
I speak to friends and colleagues older than me who say that there’s so much going on now that they would never have even contemplated when they were my age- some good and some not so good.
A point I made when I discussed the emergence of social media; social media is used for a whole lot of good but a whole lot of bad can come from it too. For parents during the 70s, 80s, 90s and even the majority of the 2000s, this was a completely alien concept.
I think we hear a lot of negative stuff that a 21st century parent has to go through, simply based on some of the stories coming out of the news. I don’t know what things were like decades ago, but so many of the news bulletins nowadays seem to cover stories with a negative tone to it. It’s almost like the majority of the news stories we hear about now are about death, destruction and scandal.
As parents, we have a duty and a responsibility to our kids to shield them from the world up until a certain age when they either start asking questions or we deem them to be old enough to learn about it from us. In my own personal situation, we have an 11-year-old who we feel we can talk to more about the ways of the world but a 5-year-old who will of course not be old enough to hear it.
So we have to tread carefully, and make sure things heard or shared are appropriate.
That in itself is a tough gig for a 21st century parent: at what age do we let our kids in to the truth about certain things? How much do we divulge? How do we say it in the right way?
Furthermore, and rightly so, there’s more of an overall focus these days on our kids’ mental wellbeing. There’s no coincidence that so many people who have typically been ignorant to the plight of people who say they have mental health issues are of a certain age bracket.
Suffering from mental health, anxiety or even to an extent neurodiverse conditions simply wasn’t spoken about until more recently.
With so many people nowadays, we have to tread more carefully and think a little more, and sometimes it’s hard to know whether to have full disclosure with our kids or keep things from them for a little longer for their own protection.
Being a 21st century parent does come with a whole host of challenges, but in so many positive ways we do have an advantage on 20th century parents too.
We’re able to grow with technology, understand more about mental illness and assist our kids with growing up in a more inclusive world that will hopefully bring about more opportunities providing they work hard enough to achieve what they want to achieve.
I’m glad to be a parent in the 21st century. Despite the possible dangers, we still have a responsibility to bring our kids up to be respectful of others but also look out for themselves too.
Sure, there’s going to be challenges to face along the way, but there’s also a great big world out there too!
I’d like to again thank Eleanor for allowing me the chance to ramble for her in this post- it’s been a bit of an eye opener for me and hopefully it will be for you too!
About the Author
How hard do you think it is to be a 21st century parent? Do you agree with Thomas’ thoughts on parenting in the 21st century? What are the biggest challenges you face as a parent?
Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Happy reading x