Digital Double Standards between parents and their children

“Could you please lay your phone down, we’re having dinner!” says my mother often to my brothers. When I go to my parents’ house and eat dinner with them, my brothers and I are not really allowed to be on our phones while we dine with each other. Logically, because it is not very social when you are on your phone while you can also talk to each other. However, my mother says this constantly to us and subsequently goes on her phone herself. “But I just realized that I have to reschedule this appointment!” Well mom, you just created a Digital Double Standard.

When I was thinking about the Internet, the Digital and what I could write on, I came across this article written by Laura Tierney. Tierney is a social media coach who teaches children and teens across the US to use technology and social media in positive and beneficial ways.1 When talking to some children, Tierney saw that they noticed quite some double standards happening with their parents when it comes to the digital world. Tierney, therefore, defined these situations as “digital double standards.” I gave an example of such a digital double standard earlier. Another relatable one might be something such as:

“I’m not allowed to sleep with my phone in the bedroom, but I know my parents’ phones are charging on their nightstands.”

– Example of a digitale double standard by a sixth-grader in conversation with Tierney, from her article.

Since I moved out from my parents to Leiden last year, I obviously do not have to deal with these anymore on a daily basis. However, when I am at my parents’ house I can see quite some of these double standards and I wonder if they can see them too.

High Standards > Double Standards

Tierney gives three tips for parents to break these double standards and turn them into ‘high standards.’ Standards are not the same as rules. In contrast, standards are a way where everyone contributes to. As Tierney states, standards are goals, they empower us and do not scare us as rules do. Even though these are tips for parents, I thought it was interesting to write about them and give my opinion on how parents can make these double standards go away and thereby create an equal standard of digital matters for everyone in the household.

Make an agreement, involving all…

The first tip Tierney gives is to make an agreement on the social standards in your family, including the whole family. Parents, do not make a contract that is only directed to the child and only your child has to sign. Instead, make one for everyone in the family. As I understand it, you make a general consensus between all family members and make a way that fits your family into living up to these. Tierney gives the example of making a ‘Family Social Standards Agreement’ and signing it. However, I think there are families that do not have to have a contract for this and make an agreement otherwise.

Screenshot of the Family Social Standards Agreement Tierney wrote about, a sample provided on the website of The Social Institute.

…and go with the flow

Her second tip basically implies: “go with the flow.” And go with the time. Children will get older and their thoughts, needs, and interests change. There are going to be new technologies that emerge and new apps made available. With all these changes, the agreement cannot always stay the same. So, revise the agreements on a regular basis and again, involve the whole family!

Help each other!

The last and third suggestion Tierney made is to help each other in living up to the standards that have been set up. When you struggle with certain digital things, parents need to go to their kids and ask for their help. This will open up communication and children will be more comfortable coming to their parents about their issues with digital stuff. Do not restrict and monitor them, but open up a conversation.


Personally, I think that parents should also watch their own behavior more to match the behavior they want to see from their children. When I look at my own situation, my parents need to look at themselves too when they point out the ‘rules’ to us. See each other as equal in this aspect and speak up about it. Communication is very important in all aspects of life, it also implies here.

Thus, parents: teach your children the digital standards that you set up as a family through carrying them out yourself. They will see that you respect the standards and that makes it easier for them to emulate your behavior and do it too.


  1. Laura Tierney, “Are you following the same digital rules you set for your kids?,” The Washington Post, December 13, 2017,