Digital Citizenship & Internet Maturity Blog

Raghu Pandey    

Digital Parenting or Digital Leadership?

A modern parent is also a digital parent. She fights an everyday battle of controlling her child's online activities. Especially when the child is a teenager. The battle takes a lot of energy, but it is important! You cannot leave the digital upbringing of your child to chance. The risks of doing that are quite serious.


In the past few years, I've seen 3 most common levels of Digital Parenting in families:

Level 1: Parent is concerned but confused. She has not set clear rules of Internet access for the child. She randomly instructs or scolds the child whenever she feels "it has been too much".

Level 2: Parent has set clear rules of Internet access. But she is not regular with imposing those rules.

Level 3: Parent has set strict rules of Internet access. She imposes them like an Army sergeant.

The rules are typically like… which device to use, where & how to sit, what sites to visit (or games to play), what time of day and for how much time. Plus, there are conditions like the homework must be completed etc.


The result of this daily battle is rarely what the parent hopes for - a digitally disciplined child making productive use of the Internet. It does force the child to pause his online activities outwardly. But inside he is still living in the digital world and hating the rules imposed by the parent. Many times, this conflict leads to loss of healthy communication between the parent & child. It can also create a rebellious attitude in the child.

This digital discipline experiments often fail. After that, I've seen some families falling down to the ‘Level 0’ of digital parenting. They either give-up the fight and surrender to the child's tantrums, or on the other extreme, impose a total ban on Internet access for weeks or months. In both cases the digital upbringing of the child gets severely compromised.

So does it mean that whatever the parent does to digitally discipline her child, she'll get defeated in the battle anyway?

If you, as a digital parent are fighting a battle with your child, then Yes!

<Slow claps from the crowd for so much hope and motivation>


But if you are leading the digital journey of your child, then there is some real hope of success for you. I’ve personally seen ‘Digital Leadership’ working really well in families. When a parent acts like a digital leader of the house, following things happen:

  • There are rules of Internet access in the house, but no fights.
  • The communication between parent & child becomes stronger than before.
  • The child trusts and respects the instructions of the parent.


What is the fundamental difference between Digital Parenting and Digital leadership?

Short answer – Purpose Orientation. For a detailed answer, let’s see the differences in the old fashioned way…

Digital Parenting

Digital Leadership

Parent is rule-oriented. Gives importance to rule or instruction being followed by the child. Example a typical rule… “No gadgets after 10pm!”

Parent is purpose-oriented. Gives importance to the purpose being fulfilled, for which the rule is set. Example “For the purpose of good health, we need good sleep. Hence no gadgets after 10pm”. Always conveys the purpose first and then the rule.

Parent tells the child what NOT TO DO. Example “Don’t go to Instagram too often”

Parent tells the child what TO DO. Example “Make sure your Instagram profile is proper” or “Be regular with Khanacademy”

Parent does not communicate in much detail about the child’s online activities.

Parent goes into the details of online activities and regularly talks about things like social networking, professional networking, blogs, forums, online searching etc.

Parent applies different rules on her own Internet access. Even though those rules might be logical for her life, the child finds it unfair and biased.

Parent applies the same logic of purpose-oriented Internet-access on herself and makes the child understand how the purposes can be different.



How a Digital Parent can evolve into a Digital Leader?

Your evolution from a Digital Parent into a Digital Leader or a Digital Role-model for your child can happen in 3 stages.

Stage-1: You must develop empathy for the digital life of your child. You must realise that Internet has immense attractive power and you too are somewhat addicted to something online (WhatsApp, or Facebook, or Youtube, or Netflix etc). Also, realise that Internet is not a toy-box, it’s a tool-box. Your challenge as a parent is not to prevent your child from over-playing with a toy-box, but to learn the best & safest use of a tool-box. Whether it’s your million dollar office project or your child’s school assignment, both of you have to overcome the same challenge – learning to make the effective use of the tool-box. Consider yourself as a senior student and your child a junior student in the same course called ‘Internet Maturity’.

Stage-2: Analyse what digital skills your child will need to be safe & successful in his life. That way, you can give the right kind of ‘To-Do’ suggestions to your child. To kickstart your thought process, go through the Curriculum Framework for Teaching Digital Citizenship & Internet Maturity to Students (don’t worry it’s just one page of reading).

Stage-3: Lead by example. Imitation or inspired behaviour comes naturally to all humans, especially to the smaller humans called children. Obeying or complying with rules is a painful effort. Your purpose-oriented online actions will be the best teacher for your child.


I cannot give you a rule-book of digital leadership for your family. That’s because one set of rules cannot be applied to all children. Digital discipline and online activities for a child who wants to become a Football player should be very different from others who want to become a writer, a lawyer, an artist, a blogger, a teacher, a programmer, or an entrepreneur etc. You can create your own rule-book easily! Following resources can help you rise through the 3 stages as explained above:

  1. 10 Things All Students Must Know About Online Learning (free eBook): Chapter 8 & 9 of this eBook will help you to create rules to ensure that the Internet doesn’t harm your child’s physical & mental health. The other chapters will tell you what skills he’d need to become a good online student.
  2. iMature Mantra for Online Safety (free eBook): This eBook explains the iMature Safety Mantra – F.A.S.T C.A.R & Secret Location. Use this safety mantra to create rules for Online Safety of your family members.
  3. Open Curriculum Framework for Teaching DCIM to School Students: Although it’s a document for schools, but parents too can get a clear picture of what are the important topics children must learn to become Internet mature, along with the purpose of teaching each topic.


Maybe you are rolling your eyes and breathing heavy, thinking “as if I didn’t have enough things to do!”. Hold on. Here is the guaranteed BONUS of making use of the above learning resources… Your own online productivity and online reputation will improve. That’s awesome for your career! Plus you will get that bumper confidence of being your child's Digital Hero :)

(Genuine claps anyone?)


Whenever you face any challenge in your digital parenting or digital leadership journey, let us know about it using the iMature Parents Helpline and we'll try our best to help you overcome it.

iMature Parents Helpline

Original image by Mote Oo Education from
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About the Author
Raghu is the founder of He has been working & talking on DCIM since 2010, and loving it! View other posts by Raghu Pandey.

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