Parenting in the Digital Age: Gen X vs Gen Y

With various apps and gadgets emerging promising to alleviate the stresses of being a parent, it’s increasingly unclear whether brands have understood the varying emotional demands of Gen X and Millennial parents, likely to be the parents of teenagers and toddlers respectively. As both vastly different generations, they have very different needs as they seek to raise their children in a world saturated with technology.

Gen X, like their Gen Z kids, grew up during tough times, and so have focused on preparing their children for the future, and raising them to be independent and mature. Uber has understood this parenting approach by trialing a function that allows teens to book rides via their parent’s app, thus allowing their movements to be monitored and ensuring their safety. Gen Z are growing up optimistic and also realistic about what’s to come, while being socially conscious and wanting to make a difference in the world.

Millennial parents are more likely to feel pressure and judgement from their peers, and to feel overwhelmed by the amount of parenting information available. They are moving away from “helicopter” parenting, running the home in a more unstructured and democratic way. 76% of UK parents, for example, gave their children some say in deciding where they wanted to go on holiday. As a generation that values experiences, they are twice as likely as Gen X to travel with their kids for education and enrichment.

But are brands catering to these two very different generations of parents? Parents from both generations are struggling to define the role they want technology to play in raising their kids. They are constantly exposed to apps and gadgets that either become part of the family, such as Alexa or Echo, or actively encourage down-time away from technology – app Glued does this by gamifying downtime. More confusing still is augmented reality tech, such as the app Campfire, that enhances the bedtime reading ritual by adding lighting, ambience and sound effects to turn any parent into an epic storyteller.

Where we see the difference between Millennial and Gen X parents is the pressure Millennials feel to maximise the development of their children. With technology widely accepted as a parenting tool, they now have the ability to monitor virtually every aspect of their child’s growth and development. VersaMe, for example, is a wearable device that monitors the richness of language a child is exposed to, to ensure that it reaches an optimal level for brain and language development. Does such a gadget, however, reassure parents that they’re doing a good job, or does its mere existence suggest that they may be lacking in ways they hadn’t considered?

On the whole, it seems that tech can help all parents to balance their role as a parent with their job by helping to manage their daily lives. Most parents are convinced that technology has a positive effect on their child’s future. Where problems may arise, however, are with offering solutions to problems that parents may not have even considered, leading them to feel inadequate and out of their depth, or seeking to replace them in some regard. Instead, brands should look to expand their offerings to cater to parents’ existing needs, as Uber is attempting to. Such services would be more intuitive for parents to adopt, and allow them to balance protecting their children with allowing them greater independence.

Megan Powell