Similar trends in Europe
We asked children directly.
Only 4 in 10 children say: “I
know more about the
internet than my parents”
Age matters: younger kids
(and girls) are increasingly
likely to think their parents
know more than they do.
Though teens still say they
know more than their
0 20 40 60 80 100
% Very true 2010 % Very true 2014
Only 1 in 3 children says:
“My parents know a lot
about what I do on he
Again younger kids do think
their parents know a lot,
while teens still guard their
Not much change here in
0 20 40 60 80 100
% A lot 2010 % A lot 2014
So what’s new?
It’s time to rethink digital
parenting (a generational shift
in the making?)
And leave behind the deficit
model of parenting as parents
are young enough to have
learned digital skills too
So how shall we support digital
native parents? as learning
partners? And so rebalance the
negative focus on rules and
Parents have to imagine several
decades into the future . . .
We can read the runes (more
tech, more global, more
insecurity, the intensification of
risks and opportunities) but . . .
78% US parents think a child’s
technology use has a positive
impact on his/her future (FOSI
2015) so what are they doing
Parenting is future-oriented
Parenting for a digital future
In-depth research with 65 diverse families
in and around London, UK
Participant observation and educator
interviews at digital media learning sites
(Code Club, Digital Design, App Development)
Interviews and observations with parents
and children, mainly at home
Intense, even emotional interviews; with
parents talking as soon as we enter
‘The digital’ - a trigger for anxiety and
reflexivity about ‘good enough parenting’.
‘Geeks’: Family 45
Peter (dad of Evan 17 and Lee 12): I think jobs
for life is long gone, to be honest.
So how do you prepare children for…?
I think what gets you on, if you’re flexible, and
you will try your hand at different stuff, and
you’re not, oh I can’t do that, I can’t do that.
But it’s hard, I mean how do you raise your kids
to be flexible and adaptable?
Yes, it’s just, don’t be rigid, you know. I think we
possibly are to a certain degree, we are
reasonably organised, you have to be to be
parents, but we’re not rigid, it’s quite free, you
know. It’s not Tuesday night, tonight it is steak
and kidney pie, you know what I mean.
“Pushy” parent: Family 22
I have a whiteboard and … this is the, you
know, the entry to secondary school when
they do the non-verbal and verbal
reasoning? So I photocopy this … These are
the questions … they’ll work it out and
they’ll mark their answers and then I’ll mark
them after so I’m like a teacher. (Anna, mum
of Dionne 10 and Derrick 13)
And how come you decided to…?
I just want them to have the best and I don’t
want them to think that the best is owed to
I think that they should learn work ethic
instead of being given something on a plate
without earning it. So I want them to have
the tools to do it.
Struggles to contain: Family 61
Natasha (late 40s, recent widow,
Bosnian, professional job), highly
protective of her son.
Jasper (12), full of enthusiasm about
technology, articulate and lively self-
taught ‘geek’, who we met learning web
development at DigiCamp.
Has a YouTube channel where he posts
the ‘intros’ he makes for others, mixing
his artistic and geeky sides.
At home, Jasper has two rooms full of
computers with design, animation and
photography software; he’s a big gamer.
Jasper keen to be interviewed without
his mum. Natasha full of anxieties, keen
to unburden herself and get support.
NATASHA: He's not allowed
Twitter. He's not allowed
Facebook. I have parental
controls so far. . .
I don't enjoy any of it
pretty much. And I don't
understand most of it. But
I, sort of, want to
understand what it is that
he's posting on YouTube. . .
But he can get obsessive . .
and I feel overwhelmed
occasionally. I just think
how do I handle this?
Digital takeover: Family 56
First met Josh (12), a self-confessed geek,
at DigiCamp where he was learning Java.
Dani (36), separated from her gay-partner
(with whom Josh mainly lives), began
coding as a child and is now a certified
ethical hacker and geek.
Home has four linked computers, lots of
high performance kit.
These two share a passion for tech talk –
their special language which bonds them
tightly and excludes others.
Their talk is slightly unreal – fast and full
of interruptions, correcting each other.
Dani’s vision – tech is immersive,
collaborative, exciting, the future, it’s
coming fast, so keep up or fall behind.
DANI: I’m excited about the
digital future . . .
Yes, I’m really excited.
You've got the Microsoft
HoloLens stuff that’s coming
out with Windows 10; that
looks awesome . . .
Work's probably going to
become a lot more fluid . . .
And the kids have to do it
for themselves, they, and
you’ve got to be responsible
for your own career . .
Parents are bringing up their children in
diverse ways in the digital age.
Their own digital media practices
influence how they arrange the home and
support children’s digital media uses.
If they lack digital confidence, parents are
anxious, preferring to be conservative,
But competitive pressures to keep ahead
are strong, so many (not just m/c) are
seeking ways to give their child a digital
Parenting discourses and values
The digital signals a step change in how
parents manage the ever more complex
boundaries of leisure/learning,
Parents worry about being good
enough parents and that this means
restricting technology rather than
For parents to be effectively engaged in
their children’s digital media activities
demands not only time and money but
also identity commitments (who they
are, who their child is).
Digital media intensify parental hopes,
fears and ambivalences about risks
and opportunities now and for the
So they have developed a host of
theories and cost/benefit calculations
about technology, learning and
pathways to the future.
Parental hopes vary from the safe
(I want them to grow up happy), the
competitive (they must get ahead) and
neoliberal (they must become flexible,
Connections and disconnections
Parents lack collective solidarity or
mutual support, often competitive
with each other, worried about the
critical judgments of others.
Even though they are increasingly
digitally skilled, they find it hard to
engage with educators, and often
do not seek online support.
Must parents remain more spoken
about than heard? Can we ‘design
in’ better connections to and for
Thanks for listening!