20 Ways The Internet Has Changed Parenting Forever

The road is long.

It kind of goes without saying that the internet has changed each and every one of our lives drastically.

More people are online and let’s face it, the plethora of information and opinions and ideas, both good and bad, coming down the electric pike grows miles with each passing minute.

Of course, the ways in which our individual lives have been affected by the most important invention since fire vary greatly; depending on everything from how much time we actually spend surfing the web to what we try and get out of it.

But one thing is for certain.

If you are a parent of a child born in the last fifteen years or so, the way you are raising your kids has indeed been influenced, in some capacity, by the cyber world.

There have been times in the last 3 years, since my own 2 kids were born, when I have held the internet tight to my chest, like an old trusted friend. There have hundreds of examples when I used yet another Google search to come up with some idea or information to help my wife or me make a decision about things as far-flung and varied as what to do when our child has an earache, or which books might make great Christmas presents for a 2-year-old, or simply what other dads might do when their kid lays down in the aisle of the supermarket and wallops the world with a mega-tantrum.

So as I’ve been thinking about this lately, about how much the world wide web has influence and repulsed and impressed and affected me in my quest to be the best 21st century parent I can possibly be, I thought it might be the perfect time to take a look at just how powerfully the internet has indeed changed all of our lives, as moms and dads.

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  • Boundless Information! 1 of 20
    Boundless Information!
    Before anything else can be listed, it must be said that the benefits of the internet, especially for parents, are seemingly endless. Before it came along, moms and dads had to rely on word of mouth or books or just gut instinct to figure out some of the tougher parenting questions. What do to do when you kid has a toothache, what local nursery school is the best, what if my baby hasn't pooped in two days??!! These sorts of problems are now way easier to address with a few clicks of a keyboard button. Any problem or question we might have about a parenting issue...there is guaranteed to be tons of stuff about it in cyber space. Nothing has ever affected parenting quite so much, in my opinion.
  • Too Much Information? 2 of 20
    Too Much Information?
    Unfortunately, sometimes it really does seem as if there is actually TOO MUCH info out there on the web. Type in something as basic as "child head cold" in your search engine and you find yourself smack dab in the middle of ten thousand miles of answers and ideas and remedies. And while this can be really useful it can also be incredibly daunting, leaving us more confused as to what to do than we were before we turned to the computer for help. And so, in a lot of ways, the internet takes us parents away from our instinctual habits and makes things more difficult. This is especially true when we are dealing with our first baby and we aren't used to the wild vastness of the internet's zillion and one voices.
  • Opinions Galore 3 of 20
    Opinions Galore
    Turning to the web for parenting advice would seem like a natural thing to do for any parent. Yet, the old adage, "Don't believe everything you read," applies here. Because ANYONE in the world is free to chime in to global discussions about child care a lot of them do. There are more opinions floating around out there than good hard facts. Message boards and forums offer up lots of valuable tips and tricks from other parents, no doubt. But just as often, they are bombarded with unproven, off-the-cuff opinions, and even worse, raging words of judgement. This, in turn, can and has often influenced parents in ways that nothing else really ever did in the past. If you spend hours reading other people's verdicts on something you are trying to decide for yourself, you often end up feeling like you're doing things wrong. And more often than not, you aren't. You're just doing them differently.
  • Second-Guessing Yourself 4 of 20
    Second-Guessing Yourself
    I believe that your parenting instincts should be something you have great confidence in, mostly because they are the natural way you feel about things. Yet, the galaxy of opinions flooding the internet on everything from breast feeding to inoculations to binkies can leave a new parent second-guessing themselves at every single turn. And once that becomes a pattern in your decision making process, it can be hard to turn away from. That's unfortunate too, because personal choice is a huge part of being a mom or dad, isn't it? And when we second-guess ourselves because of the militant opinions of others, we might just be headed down the wrong path for us and our kids. So, as big a player as it has become, the internet and its opinionated reach are still often best considered with a big, old grain of salt.
  • Focus On Parenting 5 of 20
    Focus On Parenting
    Once you DO learn to approach the web, and all of its advice and information, with a bit of educated skepticism there is so much that's great and unprecedented about it. In fact, just the way that so many of us have been exposed to a whole new worldwide focus on the art of parenting itself is damn miraculous, if you think about it. Websites that focus on parenting tactics and stories and shared ideas are something so valuable when used correctly that parents of past generations could have never even dreamed there would be such a thing. This collective, albeit often debated, approach to the utter importance of being the best parent we can be has skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade or so. And that's because folks have been suddenly connected with so many others who are wandering down the same mysterious path as us.
  • Shopping! 6 of 20
    Shopping!
    Let's move away from the more serious stuff for a second. Something magnificent, at least in my opinion, that has affected parenting greatly is the ease in which we can shop now. Just think about it: twenty years ago, there was no Amazon, ebay or Etsy or any of the other millions of places where you could buy diapers or cool onesies or awesome books or toys for your kids with the click of your keyboard. It used to be that you went down to the mall and what they had was what you could get, simple as that. But the web has enabled us to pick from just about anything available for children imaginable. And that's a pretty cool thing.
  • More and Better Stuff 7 of 20
    More and Better Stuff
    There has always been a market for special items aimed at babies and children, of course, but with the advent of the internet in our lives, there are now way more items being introduced to parents every single day. And yeah, a lot of it is just crap, but with a little cyber research we are now able to seek out better quality clothes and toys and child care accoutrements than ever before. The competition for internet sales is fierce, and that results in better quality goods than any parent before us was ever able to dig up.
  • Naming Names 8 of 20
    Naming Names
    Something captivating to me is how influential cyber space has become when it comes to naming our children. Think about it. If you have been an expectant parent over the past decade or so, you know that you have done exactly what I have done twice now, and that's to start searching around for what baby names are really popular, or even just what baby names are really unpopular but strike your fancy. There is no doubt in my mind that the net's influence on children's monikers in recent times has been enormous. The amount of ideas and opinions about names for kids on the internet is simply put, astounding. And super influential, whether we realize it or not.
  • The Universal Bond 9 of 20
    The Universal Bond
    Despite all of the opinions and mumble jumble any parent has to wade through when they seek out parenting advice/ideas on the net, there is little doubt that we all turn to our computers often to connect with the fact that we are not alone. Knowing that there are so very many other parents out there in the world dealing with the same questions and joys and problems of parenthood is one of the amazing things about cyber space. No longer are we limited to just hearing about the tricks of the trade from our family and friends. Rather, these days we are exposed to the entire world's collective experience in raising children. And that's really a beautiful thing when you consider it.
  • 15 Minutes of Fame 10 of 20
    15 Minutes of Fame
    It's worth noting that the internet has provided a previously unheard of platform for millions of folks around the world to enjoy their proverbial "15 minutes of fame." Mommy bloggers, daddy bloggers, viral videos, the list goes on and on of people whose child-raising experiences have become a part of the shared collective canon of things that influence, offend, impress, and entertain a lot of other parents, and non-parents alike, worldwide. There was a time when the idea of millions of people watching your home movies of your kid doing something funny or reading your thoughts on child-rearing would be unheard of. But nowadays, it's a simple fact of our electrified life. Hell, to be perfectly honest, if you would have told me a few years ago that I would someday soon be writing about parenting on the internet, I would have doubled-over laughing. But...here I am. And I love it.
  • Rising Fears 11 of 20
    Rising Fears
    Okay, back to some of the ugly stuff now, because, as we all know, with anything good there is inevitably some bad to come along with it. Sadly, I find that one of the internet's biggest flaws is that it often scares the bejesus out of new parents. Lots of people are alarmists out there, or at least they like to play one on the monitor. So, whenever you go online looking for a simple fact about a simple knee-scrape or a toothache you can be darn sure that, along the way, you will run into some folks who absolutely MUST tell you to get to the doctor immediately, or to just go ahead and buy a tombstone, because what your dealing with has the potential to be the absolute worst case scenario in the history of children. I find that a bit of a bummer, really. Mostly, I suppose, because I found that in my earliest days of parenting the fears that were sparked in me by reading so many of these types of parenting doomsdayers all proved to be ridiculously farfetched. Still, they caused me no small amount of grief for basically no reason at all. Again, it helps to remember that although the internet is a great tool, it's also a wasteland populated with many shady voices.
  • Safety First 12 of 20
    Safety First
    Even though I recognize that there are a lot of unfounded fears instilled in new parents by reading the wrong stuff on-line, I would be remiss to fail to mention how much great stuff there is about safety for us to learn. I can't even tell you how much I have learned about keeping my kids from falling down the steps or how to introduce your brand new little one to your big oafish dogs at home just by reading other folks' fabulous ideas. It never fails to amaze me how many sensible and intelligent people there are out there on-line, people who are a huge benefit to those of us who are looking for ideas about how to help protect our kids from everyday danger. Yes, the basic ideas have always been available to parents down through the years, but with the internet we are privy to so many more creative and proven approaches.
  • Fatherhood 13 of 20
    Fatherhood
    Obviously, becoming a dad has always been an important part of any man's life. But, I must say, the internet has helped to create a new found focus on fatherhood that I think kicks major ass. Over the past few years, more and more has been written by and for fathers about being the kind of dad we all hope to be. Again, the shared collective of dads writing about all things 'daddy' is something that didn't even exist on any level not very long ago. But today it does and that has fostered a fabulous concentration of the importance of fathers in a child's life. Plus, take it from me, it's really helping guys forge their own parenting paths thanks to the wisdom of those who have been down that road already.
  • Pop Culture 14 of 20
    Pop Culture
    I don't have any real hard data to back this one up, but if you ask me, parents writing and reading about parenting on the internet has definitely influenced a lot of pop culture in recent times. There have always been sitcoms and films about families and family life, of course, but over the past few years TV shows like UP ALL NIGHT and PARENTHOOD, as well as films like THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT and BABY MAMA, have all been nearly direct results of this whole new concentrated focus on being a mom or a dad that the internet has fostered.
  • Nurseries, Bedrooms & Playrooms 15 of 20
    Nurseries, Bedrooms & Playrooms
    It might not seem as groundbreaking as a lot of the other observations I've noticed, but I have to mention the way the internet has certainly influenced the way we decorate and set up our baby's nursery and our toddler's bedrooms. Since the internet began, people have been posting photos of what they are doing aesthetically to their kid's little corner of the world to make them more pleasing to the eye. Then, with the creation of sights like Pinterest and Etsy in the very recent past, well, things just exploded. So now the sphere of influence and artistic impression that we are exposed to when it comes to decorating the places where our little ones sleep and play is gargantuan. I like that too, because it means that parents are getting wildly creative with things right from the get-go. And in the long run, having wildly creative parents is a huge plus!
  • Disabilities & Illness 16 of 20
    Disabilities & Illness
    For many parents, never having a child with a serious disability or serious illness is a blessing we may not even think about much. Yet, for a huge amount of folks, it is an everyday part of their lives, a reality which is both challenging and inspiring and difficult and rewarding all at once. So, considering that so many parents have had to navigate through those channels all by themselves, or with few people to talk to/learn from, in the past, it's pretty powerful to recognize just how much connection the internet offers them. Being able to share things with each other offers these parents an incredible chance to relate to others in their position, people they would never ever be able to connect with otherwise. Beyond that, for the rest of us, reading and knowing the plights and realities of families who are dealing with children with disabilities or illnesses tends to teach ALL of us quite a bit about love and hope and the limitless heights that we are all capable of as parents, and as kids too. This is a prime example of the internet's secret parenting powers.
  • Adoption 17 of 20
    Adoption
    Just like with all of the writing and light shed upon kids with certain disabilities, I believe that the plethora of writing on the internet done by parents involved in the adoption process has helped a lot of people. Not only do the tales of prospective/hopeful folks hoping to adopt shed serious light upon the process of adoption itself, but being able to follow, from afar, the lives of certain families who do adopt, gives a really human perspective to something many of us know little about. In turn, more and more people understand that adopting a child is one of the coolest things any family can do. There are so many children all over the world whose lives are changed for the better through the adoption process that teaching us more and more about it, and about the actual people who have done it, is just another way that the internet has really changed parenting forever.
  • An Army Of Support 18 of 20
    An Army Of Support
    Even if we don't have specific questions in mind, or specific problems to address at any given moment, being a parent is often a tough confusing job. We are always wondering if we could do better, if we are doing things right. It's probably the number one thing that all parents can agree with: we are often victims of the little voices wondering up in our heads. With that in mind, understanding how important the role of the internet has become in the universal life of the parent on Earth is simply as easy as relating to it yourself. Each time we smile at something we come across about parenting that rings a bell, each time we are happy and relieved to find some new way to help make little tears dry away, we are all proof that this army of support from other parents out there surfing and writing and commenting is something pretty special. Never before in history have so many proverbial encouraging pats on the back been available to us.
  • Emergency Relief! 19 of 20
    Emergency Relief!
    I have to be honest here with you: as much as I have found the internet to be a worthwhile place to peruse and learn about kid-raising stuff, there may be no better service it has ever provided to me than the one that allows my wife to call up a Mickey Mouse or Dora cartoon on her smart phone when we are barreling down the highway with a screaming, crying kiddo in the back. The majestic force with which a simple cartoon, dialed up with wireless magic, can pause and freeze a child's freakout is one of the greatest things ever achieved by man, I'd say. So to all of you who have bothered to post cartoons on YouTube...I owe you each a cold beer.
  • Full Circle 20 of 20
    Full Circle
    Not be too philosophical, but, oh hell...I'm gonna get philosophical here anyway! In my mind, the internet and its massive tides, its full-moon affects on the changing ebbs and flows of modern parenting, are the 21st century's way of making sure that, ultimately, we return to our own devices. See, when we are first becoming parents, many of us turn to the web for ideas and info, for that shared learning experience that comes with any group of people who open up with one another in ways we can relate to or benefit from. But then, after a while, we begin to feel way more confident in our abilities than we ever did before. We recognize, quite correctly, that being a mommy or a daddy isn't really something that we can mess up all that much as long as we follow our guts and our hearts and our brains while we're out rowing against the wind. Sure, we all enter parenthood differently, with varying hopes and knowledge and fears, but soon, we learn that no matter how much we gather from the collective voice, no matter how many times we turn to others to help us navigate the roughest seas, we are still doing it basically alone. And in that light, we come around full circle, to ultimately realize that most, if not all of the answers about the greatest part of our lives were right there within us all along.

You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.

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More from Serge:

Young At Heart: 15 Ways Having Kids Made Me Young Again

Was I Wrong to Post This Picture of My Daughter and Myself on the Internet?

10 Qualities I Hope My Daughter Picks Up From Her Mother

Baby’s First Week At Home: Invaluable Tips For New Dads

 

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