“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.
…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.
- Laura Tierney, “Are you following the same digital rules you set for your kids?,” The Washington Post, December 13, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/12/13/digital-double-standards-youre-probably-making-as-a-parent/?tidloc=8.
Your blog about double standards really made me think back to how those double standards really backfired on my dad. Usually, when I was gaming downstairs and my dad would come home, I had to stand up to open the front door for him as he forgot his keys quite often. Since I would usually be in-game, I would be slightly irritated and my dad would comment something like ‘it’s just game, stop sulking’.
However, later on, my dad became really invested in a game himself, and one day, I was the one who forgot the keys. When he opened the door for me, he was soooo irritated and I only said ‘shouldn’t you stop sulking? It’s just a game right?’.
Since then he never commented on it anymore.
Really love this blog post as I can relate so much to it. I am someone that likes to play video games every now and then, and most of them involve some sort of fighting or violence. My parents used to get really upset about that. They always said I would become a violent person myself or I would become a “failure” in the future. At the same time, my parents would watch really gross horror or killer movies, where people get limbs cut off with full blood splatter and what not. The games I played compared to these movies were completely harmless. Luckily, they came to accept that I’m completely fine and not violent at all – I feel bad for killing a fly actually.
My mom also often complains about how phones are bad for your brain and that my sister and me get too distracted by it. But then again, my mom sits in the kitchen watching YouTube videos and will ignore you if you talk to her or ask her something. I still do not know if she intentionally ignores us or if she is just too much into the YouTube videos.
I recognize so much from this blogpost! I had the exact same situation at the dinner table, I have become so used to not being allowed a phone at the table that I leave it somewhere else in the living room only to find my parents both lost in their devices somewhere during the meal… But when I get up to get my phone, it’s allll wrong, yeah right.
I also have a lot of other double standards that this blogpost reminded me of: me playing a digital game was always seen as bad and there was something better I should do, but my dad endlessly playing sudoku’s was all fine. It’s so double that parents get to dictate what we as kid need to obey to and then have them ignore their own rules blatantly because they are the parents…
The double standard thinking also happened in my childhood. I remembered on weekend when I was in primary school, we always had a movie night on Sunday. My parents and I would watch a film together. And sometimes the movies last more than 2 hours, my parents were fine with it of us watching such a long time. However, if my parents allowed me to watch TV after I had done my assignment and homework from school. If i watched more than 40 minutes, they would be mad at me and said “I let you watch TV, but 40 minutes…… Don’t you think it’s a bit too long?” So yeah, this double standard somehow shows the inequality between my parents and I. I totally understand that the reason they did it was to show they care about me, but sometimes it was not reasonable at all.
I really enjoyed reading your blog! I could relate to your points about there being a clear double standard, and I agree that parents should also take a look at their own behaviour so that their children will also mimic the behaviour that the parents want to see. In other words, they have to practice what they preach, or it is not effective when trying to instil ‘proper’ behaviour.
I was told to not use my phone while sitting at the dinner table, and I was also told to not watch YouTube videos at the dinner table, but sometimes my parents would be using their phone, but they claim that they have to answer work emails, or an important message from a friend. For example, my mum would also watch YouTube videos while eating dinner, even after she told me and my sister not to watch YouTube videos at the dinner table. I think this type of double standard is very strange, because it gives me the impression that I am being rude if I am on my phone at the dinner table, but when my parents do the same thing then it is acceptable simply because they are my parents.