Parenting, ways of knowing and teenage children’s use of digital technologies

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Public anxieties about how children are engaging with different forms of media are not new. Often framed in terms of a moral panic, anxieties about children and new media and technologies have included early concerns about television screen time, to more recent concerns about the internet, smart phones and social networking. A ‘cyber-safety’ discourse has emerged warning parents about the potential risks and dangers associated with new digital technologies, and instructing parents what they should be doing to mitigate them.

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I conducted focus groups and interviews with forty parents throughout late 2016 and early 2017 to discuss their anxieties and practices in relation to their children’s use of digital technologies. Parents discussed a range of concerns: from the amount of time spent on devices and the psychological pressure of constant connectivity, to concerns around gaming, sexualised online environments, and bullying. Parents admitted that while they found it a difficult issue to navigate, they developed specific knowledges and utilised a number of strategies to manage technology use in the home. Parents demonstrated varying levels of knowledge and understanding of what their children were doing online and on devices; these involved different ‘ways of knowing’ and correlative subject positions. The ‘immersive’ parent demonstrated more detailed knowledge about their children’s technology practices which in part determined their practices in managing and negotiating their children’s use. The ‘structured’ or ‘methodised’ parent demonstrated less knowledge, and appeared to draw more heavily on existing discourses about parenting and cyber-safety when identifying their concerns and discussing how they manage and negotiate their children’s technology use. Biography Catherine Page Jeffery is a PhD candidate and teaching fellow at the University of Canberra. Her PhD research is concerned with parental anxieties in relation to teenage children’s use of digital technologies, as well as how parents manage and negotiate their children’s use of technology. Her professional experience spans internet content regulation and cyber-safety education in Government, as well as ICT research and policy for Australia’s ICT Research Centre of Excellence.