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The dangers of i-parenting

Many observers believe that teens are exposed to far too much technology and that relationships with parents and other family members can often suffer as a result. However, a new book published earlier this month takes a different approach, arguing that in many cases it’s the parents that are too immersed in technology, particularly when it allows them to influence their children’s lives.

The iConnected Parent concentrates on the relationship between parents and children who are heading off to college for the first time. According to the authors, psychology professor Barbara Hofer and New York Times contributor Abigail Sullivan Moore, technology is allowing parents to become overly involved in the activities of their newly independent offspring, often to the detriment of the college experience.

What used to be a once-a-week phone call home has now become a constant stream of daily texts, e-mails, Facebook updates and Skype calls. Not only are parents looking out for the physical welfare of their kids but they are becoming increasingly involved in academic matters, even editing course submissions or contacting professors to clarify study assignments.

This “hypermanaging” activity often continues after college and into a child’s working life, leaving many young adults ill-equipped to cope with the rigors of the real world without constant parental support.

Professor Hofer uses her experience at Middlebury College in Vermont to illustrate what’s happening on the typical campus. Rather than working things out on their own or using their parents as a last resort, students now reach for their smartphone as soon as they have a question they can’t answer: “My roommate’s boyfriend is here all the time. What should I do?”; “Can you help with this paper? It’s due tomorrow?”;  “What setting should I use to wash my jeans?”

Urging moderation, the authors stress the older teen’s need for independence. Rather than making them feel secure and cared for, excessive parental communication leads to a lack of self-confidence and adds greatly to parental anxiety. Instead, Hofer and Moore offer practical tips and advice on how parents can stay connected to their kids while giving them the space they need to become independent adults.

Is it possible to be too connected to your kids? Do you have kids away at college? How often do you communicate on a weekly basis? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom! 

Comment by Ellen Lebowitz, posted 8/30/2010, 4:59 PM:

A colleague of mine told me about this book. I just ordered it. The premise of this book is spot-on. I have heard of parents, mostly moms, who call or Skype their college kids daily. Since going off to college is often the first time kids have lived independently from their parents, daily contact with parents does not promote independence - emotionally or intellectually. Weekly conversations might prove beneficial. Thank you, El
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