Top 10 Digital Parenting Trends of 2021

In a time where digital trends and news can be overwhelming, we thought we would take this opportunity to summarize the top digital stories for parents in 2021.

Trend 10: Release of Metaverse

What is Metaverse? And why do we care? The Metaverse is a 3-D digital universe that brings together virtual reality, augmented reality and video. Many have called it “the future of the internet,” where users can interact with others across the globe through VR technology.

What should you do? START recommends taking a driver’s ed approach to Metaverse. Try it out for yourself first, and walk with caution before letting your children immerse themselves in it. There are still a lot of unknowns about how Metaverse will fit into our culture, and safety remains a big concern.

Trend 9: #TrueCrimeTok

The trending hashtag #TrueCrimeTok has over 1.2 billion views. With this generation of teens growing up in a world where the internet provides instant answers, the idea of an unsolved mystery is something of a novelty.

Take the story of young influencer Gabby Petito who went missing on a camping trip with her boyfriend. #TrueCrimeTok jumped on this story, eventually breaking the case open.

Although fans helped solve this case, the problem lies with remembering that these are stories of real people. As in the case of Gabby, it ends with the heartbreaking find of Gabby’s remains and her family’s devastating loss. If you have an obsessed true crime fan in your house, it might be time to start talking through their fascination. Ask questions about what they are feeling and talk about how they can avoid exploiting the real-life people who are grieving.

Trend 8: Digital Withdrawal

The long months of lockdowns and virtual schooling made many parents overlook the increasing amount of time their children were spending on devices. The pandemic caused us to create some bad habits that are going to take work to break, especially for children.

Addiction expert, Keith Humphreys, told the New York Times earlier this year, “There will be a period of epic withdrawal.” He states that young people will need to “sustain attention in normal interactions without getting a reward hit every few seconds.”

We wish we could give you an easy fix, but like dealing with any addiction, there isn’t one. Just know that if you’re hoping to change some of your family’s digital habits, it’s going to take time and energy. Download our Screen Sanity Group Study and Social Media Playbook to help guide the conversation.

Trend 7: Decline in Friendships

After living through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, most of us have realized the importance of friendship. However, a recent study shows that Americans have far fewer friends than they did 30 years ago.

Making close friends might be harder than ever, but we want to encourage you to take initiative and prioritize community. Friendships increase our ability to be content, create support and add value to our lives.

Trend 6: Billie Eilish Speaks out on Porn

Singer Billie Eilish spoke out in early December about an addiction to watching pornography that started at age 11. She felt watching porn helped her be cool and become “one of the guys.” Now, she talks about suffering from nightmares because some of the content was so violent and abusive. She also criticized the way porn depicts women’s bodies and experiences.

“I think it really destroyed my brain and I feel incredibly devastated that I was exposed to so much porn,” says Eilish.

At age 18, she is the youngest person in history to win all four of the top Grammy awards. Her voice in normalizing the truth about the dangers of pornography is a huge step.

Trend 5: Catfishing on TikTok

Catfishing is when someone sets up a fake profile and pretends to be someone else, often luring someone into a relationship or scamming for money.

The good news: Your teen is not as easily fooled as you! Teens are much more adapt to identifying phonies.

Why it’s scary: Adults who pretend to be minors are making money by producing content that sexualizes the idea of being underage. They use TikTok to market their paid channels, such as OnlyFans. They may not actually be sixteen, but they look like they could be (or edit themselves to look like they could be), and those watching may very well believe that they are underage when they are performing explicit acts on camera.

We don’t want to frighten our teens, but it’s our job to help them understand what they might be seeing.

Trend 4: Decline in Mental Health

Insomnia, anxiety, and depression in our youth is ever-increasing. Youth suicide attempts continue to be on the rise. While social media offers opportunities for connection, it can also create deep isolation. The stress and anxiety of the pandemic and the disruption to the routine have contributed to a spike in insomnia.

We encourage you to take time to assess your family’s mental health. Have conversations with your teens about their sleep hygiene (or lack thereof). You may even want to talk to a professional. Technology has made it easier to talk with counselors and get the help you might need.

Trend 3: Fake Famous

“Fake Famous” is an HBO documentary about how much work and deception goes into being an influencer. The film’s director, Nick Bilton says that people are looking for “likes, which translates to more followers, which is the current currency of the most important thing on earth today—what everyone seems to be obsessed with. They want to be famous.”

“Fake Famous” takes you behind the scenes and reveals the smoke and mirrors. Bilton buys followers for his up-and-coming influencers and also reveals that most influencers, even the highly famous like Kim Kardashian—have purchased followers, in order to inflate their engagement metrics.

Trend 2: TikTok Trends

#Trending topics on TikTok have convinced many young people to do and try new things. Combining watermelon and mustard became a surprising and refreshing snack for millions of people. New songs, recipes and dance challenges brought people together and made for a really fun time.

But dangerous and damaging trends are circling as well. The viral milk crate challenge caused massive injuries while the “devious licks” challenge encouraged high school students to cause damage to their school’s property.

Trend 1: Facebook Whistleblowing

In the midst of rising Facebook and Instagram controversies, an internal study about the harmful effects of Instagram on teenage girls was released. The leaked study confirmed what many researchers already knew: the platform makes teenage girls feel worse about their bodies and increases anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

The day before testifying at the Senate, Instagram promised parental controls. No one is buying their promises after 11 years of exploitation.

There are many questions about Facebook’s moderation policies and a controversial line has been drawn with some wanting more and some fearing censorship. Whether for good or bad, it is likely that that government regulations are coming for Facebook soon.

Remember that digital health begins with you! Even if you’re taking small steps in the right direction, your kids are watching.

Happy New Year from all of us at START. We look forward to linking arms with you as we grow the digital health movement in 2022!