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Online Parenting

13/06/2013 12:37 | Updated 11 August 2013

Authoritative Parenting Online using the Who, Where and What Approach

There are lots of things that puzzle us at team PZ. Like why we can never get the printer to work (apart from Joe in finance who seems to have a special relationship with it). Or why some companies think it is absolutely fine to sell £69.99 bars of virtual gold in games that are designed and created for pre-schoolers.

But the thing that really has us scratching our head is why more people don't talk about and promote a style of parenting that has been consistently shown to be the most effective style a parent can use. And by consistently I'm talking about a body of research that extends all the way back to the 60's and has never been argued against. Updated and tweaked but never fundamentally challenged. Because the evidence is incontrovertible. An authoritative parenting style works. Full Stop.

And if it isn't something that gets the attention it deserves generally, it is completely and utterly overlooked when it comes to thinking about how we support parents to deploy their parenting skills online. We simply haven't connected what works in parenting to what is needed to help children navigate their way through the online world. Something we would typically describe as a gap!

Well no more. Over the last six months with support from Microsoft, we have developed a model for authoritative parenting online. We've looked at the research about online risks taking the Tanya Byron model created by her in 2008, and mapped that against the parenting response needed to mitigate those risks. Promoting an approach that includes talking to children, setting appropriate boundaries, letting them take managed risks and when it's appropriate using tools and software to back up parents' decisions.

It has been a mammoth task. Thinking about the skills, confidence and support that is needed for a parent to be authoritative very quickly exposes the significant amount of work we need to do to make sure parents are able to use the most effective parenting style online. For lots of parents, the technology is confusing. For parents who are comfortable with the technology there is still a gap between what they do online and what their children do online. Most of us are unaware of the risks that are part of a young person's exploration of the internet and finally, just to make sure that even the most confident of parents is challenged, we have the reality that devices are designed to be used by individuals operating without the sort of offline onlookers that form part of the safe network of family, friends and professionals that keep an eye out for children in the real world. When we ask parents to think about talking their offline parenting skills online we are actually asking an awful lot.

So we've created a parenting approach that can be taught to help parents bridge the offline/online gap. We're training our first facilitators on June 12th. Which as I write this is tomorrow. Too late to change anything now. The next course is on 19th June in London then we leap to September and Edinburgh. The more facilitators we can train the more parents they can reach. They will be the first facilitators able to teach parents how to be Authoritative Parenting Online using the Who, Where and What approach and we can't wait for them to be out there supporting parents. If you'd like to find out more about the courses email charlotte@theparentzone.co.uk.

Oh, and in the same week we've launched our new website - www.theparentzone.co.uk. No wonder we're all a bit tired.