Editorial: Is parental control the same as parental support?

Timia Hyde, Staff Writer

Being a teenager is the bridge between leaving childhood and stepping into adulthood. At that point in life, teens are expected to emotionally mature, make important life decisions, build their own identity, and find their place in the world. Teenagers still need parental support in order to make sure they are becoming successful individuals. However, there are also experiences that teens need to go through on their own. Many parents want to help support their teen in being the best they can be, but sometimes the parental support that is received can feel more like parental control. Parental control is a psychological control when the parent tries to influence their child’s behaviors. This may include restricting their access to certain content online to protect them from people or inappropriate material or installing surveillance cameras in the home to monitor their child’s unsupervised behaviors. While this parenting method is well intended, research shows that parental control does not allow for children and teens the ability to self-regulate, learn risk-coping, and impulse control. Instead of using parental control apps or hovering, parents should talk to their teens about what is acceptable behavior and how to make good decisions.

Negative influences are everywhere, so having open communication is way more effective than trying to eliminate every threat. In a research conducted by Pew Research Center, a Washington DC based research tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends that shape the world, a sample of 1,060 parents who have teens between the ages of 13 and 17 years old found that “parents of younger teens (ages 13-14) are more likely than parents of older teens (ages 15-17) to speak with their child about appropriate and inappropriate behavior in a variety of online and offline spaces.” There are so many ways for negative influences to reach children with the amount of content that is created and shared in this digital age, so trying to conceal it puts teens at a greater risk than informing them.

Instead, parent-teen collaboration and communication with teens would be a better way to to expose them to the possibilities of dangers and threats and teach them how to make better decisions. Jordan Wilder, a freshman at South says, “My mom tells me what to do and I don’t feel like I have a choice since it’s ‘her roof, her rules‘. The problem is I don’t make many decisions for myself and I feel very robotic. Teens, as a majority, want freedom. Our parents want wants best for us and we want what’s best for us too; but, we have to figure out what that is.” Many teens struggle with being decision makers in their own lives.

A neuroscientist and expert in adolescent development, Ron Dahl, explains interesting findings about the role of social support in a teen’s life. Dahl says that teens are more interested in being respected and they are sensitive to status, being accepted, belonging, being admired, and being valued. Because adolescents are sensitive to social scrutiny, it more effective to parent from a mastery curve experience. This means that teens and their support system work through decisions together, so teens are informed on its pros and cons. Ultimately, older teens make their own decision, though they may struggle at first, they get better or learn from the experience. Not only is this a solid form of support, but it is rewarding for teens who are trying to figure it out and feel more competent knowing their independence is being supported.