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Parenting in the digital age

It’s a hard knock life for parents raising digitally native kids. Long gone are the days of cul-de-sac bike rides and slumber party ghost stories – kids’ worlds are now almost exclusively ruled by social media and digital technology. And parents are feeling the pinch.

According to our newest survey, more than 67% of parents believe that the digital age has made parenting more difficult – so difficult in fact, that 25% wish the internet was never invented. We surveyed 2,000 parents nationwide, with children between ages 6 and 25, and found many more insights into the latest parenting trends and concerns they have when it comes to parenting in the age of technology.

Family Milestones in the Digital Age
As we’ve found ourselves moving full speed ahead through the digital revolution, certain rights of passage and family milestones have been born, or have had to adapt to the changing times. For example, parents would sooner let their children use the internet without supervision (at an average age of 12) than make their own bedtime or go out with friends unsupervised (12 and 13, respectively). As their kids enter their tween years, parents would also sooner allow their kids to get their first cell phone and social media account (12) than attend sleepaway camp (13).

Laying Down the Law
While it can be challenging to establish ground rules within digitally native families, there are some traditional rules that parents remain firm on. For example, 52% of parents still require a meet and greet with other parents before allowing sleepovers. More than two-fifths of parents (41%) also still require that their kids have an adult present while driving with friends. An example of a more modern ground rule for the digital age: 44% of parents prohibit cell phones in the bedroom after a certain time.

Parenting and Technology – a Delicate Balance
The survey found that families exchange more than 10,000 text messages per year, with more than 34% of parents reporting that they exchange upwards of 30 text and social media messages per day with their families. Included in these exchanges are parents asking for an update on their kids’ whereabouts – on average, this occurs 6 times per day. Interestingly, these check-ins occur more frequently with sons (7 times) than daughters (6 times) throughout the course of a day. Parents are also feeling pressure to buy the latest in most expensive gear and tech gadgets for their kids, with 64% of parents admitting that they feel pressure from their peers, their kids and themselves to do so.

“Maybe When You’re Older”
Whether kids like it or not, their age plays a key role in how their parents view screen time. For instance, 47% of parents who have, or have had, elementary school aged children expressed a concern over their kids spending too much time in front of screens, while only 33% of parents who have, or have had, a child in middle school and 36% of parents who have, or have had, a child in high school, feel the same. 

At least some of this concern begins to fade as kids approach their adolescent years, though – parents are more likely to allow their children to use the internet without supervision (at an average age of 12) than go out with friends unsupervised (13).

He Said, She Said, They Said
Only having to worry about the gossip that makes its way through the grapevines of school hallways is a thing of the past. Reputational risks for kids are everywhere these days, especially in digital environments. Parents of elementary, middle, and high school students are equally concerned (30%) that their children will post or send content online that might negatively affect their reputation. Taking an even closer look, 34% of parents worry more so about what their sons post, compared to 25% that expressed concern over their daughters’ posting habits. These concerns likely tie back to the 56% of parents that reported requiring their kids to allow them access to their social media accounts.

Influencing factors don’t just come from home or the hallways, though, and they start early. One of the top three concerns of parents who have, or have had, an elementary aged child, along with too much screen time and peer pressure, is that their kids are being negatively influenced by the media (40%). These concerns even surpass concerns that their child won’t make friends (25%). 

While parenting in the digital age certainly has its unique challenges, it’s important for parents to know that they’re not alone in their efforts to keep their kids safe. Life360 is teaming up with National PTA, which has been working to address digital safety issues that are top of mind for families and connect parents with relevant tools, research and support. The collaboration will kick off during National PTA’s Back-to-School Week (September 16-20), where Life360 will be prompting positive conversations within families by sharing relevant research, discussion starters and best practices in the form of a downloadable guide – the ‘Modern Parenting Insights’ Go Guide – which can be found on PTA.org starting September 17th.

Life360 will also serve as an official supporting  sponsor of the National PTA’s “PTA Connected” initiative, which in part strives to help parents and kids make the best decisions for their families and help children act safely and thoughtfully online

This online survey was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Life360 in the United States between August 2, 2019 and August 14, 2019. The 2,000 panelists who have at least one child aged six to 25 were selected and invited to participate at random from a double-opted in and fully managed online research panel. OnePoll is a corporate member of ESOMAR and employs members of the MRS, employing standards that adhere to the MRS code of conduct.

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