Originally posted on Euro RSCG’s Social Life and Social Media blog.
If you happen to be home on any given weekday afternoon, you’ve no doubt noticed that there are a whole lot of dads pushing strollers these days while their wives are taking care of business at the office. We all saw the controversy that Time caused about motherhood when it put a beautiful yoga mom on the cover, nursing her son for the whole world to see. Considering all this, and with Father’s Day fresh in our minds and technology going Mach 11, I thought it was worth taking a look at what the daddy set is up to and how tech is affecting how they parent.
It’s funny how many of us grew up associating all things “tech” with men—gadgets and gizmos were always the provenance of men, and stores such as Brookstone and Sharper Image catered to a largely male crowd, or those seeking gifts for their gadget-crazy boyfriends, brothers, husbands and/or fathers. Although most women today are equally geeky for tech, a recent study by Euro RSCG Worldwide and Market Probe International explored how today’s dads feel about raising children in a tech-obsessed world. In a poll of 1,000 fathers across the United States, both Digital Dads (edgy influencers) and Average Joes (more mainstream consumers) recognized how beneficial a digital life can be but were also quick to note the dangers of an online life to society and their children.
For one thing, most dads think that all this online activity is leading to more intelligent kids. In fact, 76 percent of Digital Dads and 63 percent of Average Joes believe new technologies and greater access to information are making their kids smarter. With online learning and reading becoming the new normal, dads are feeling that the Internet is a vital part of growing up. About the same percentage of Digital Dads and Average Joes think kids who grow up without Internet access at home are at a disadvantage. (With the world of work-life becoming more cloud-based than ever, it’s hard to ignore that not having access to all things online will become a handicap.) I can imagine a time in the very near future that in addition to keeping our kids active and their bellies full of healthy food, we’ll also seek ways to ensure that they have the ability to go online. Look for dads to lead the charge in making sure this happens.
Of course, there are those dads who feel it’s important that their little ones have the latest and greatest. Nearly half of Digital Dads surveyed say having the newest tech products will help keep their children well versed in the best that technology has to offer, while only a quarter of Average Joes say it’s essential to raising the next generation of digital natives.
With all things Internet giving us a good deal of fatigue, dads are seeing that digital has a real downside: About seven in 10 Average Joes (versus about six in 10 Digital Dads) worry that new technologies are too much of a distraction for their kids and are concerned about authentic face-to-face communication and the loss of more personal forms of connecting. Plus, 77 percent of Average Joes and 64 percent of Digital Dads worry that digital communication is making the current generation of young people less proficient in the English language and a bit too versed in texty shorthand.
When it comes to disciplining children, it used to be that TV time and video games were earned rewards for completing homework and chores, but with our whole lives being spent online today, it’s a delicate matter to get our kids to step away from the monitor—six in 10 Digital Dads and half of Average Joes make it a point to limit the amount of time their kids spend online. Forty-two percent of Digital Dads and 31 percent of Average Joes force their children to go outside and enjoy the time-honored tradition of playtime, away from keyboards and touchscreens.
But it’s not just our kids who need to get out and enjoy the warm temperatures; our very own addictions to social media and online connections often consumer us. And if you think blogging or posting pictures of your little angel is a mommy thing, think again: Two-thirds of Digital Dads and one-third of Average Joes have posted a photo of their children on a social media site, and more than half of Digital Dads (52 percent) and 18 percent of Average Joes have written about a parenting experience online on a blog, Facebook or another site. Nearly one in five Digital Dads (17 percent) have even gone online or used an app to track their baby’s development. Showing one’s pride and joy used to mean taking a dog-eared photo out of your wallet. Today, look for dads to continue to parent online and show the world how involved they are in their children’s lives.
Which brings up another point: Has the natural proclivity of men to dig all things tech helped make them better parents? Fifty-seven percent of Digital Dads and 32 percent of Average Joes believe digital connectivity makes it easier to be a parent. With everything from sharing information with other dads to googling what to do for a case of croup, dads are seeking kinship and advice in record numbers online. Nearly two-thirds of Digital Dads (64 percent) have connected with other parents online, as have 25 percent of Average Joes. And 55 percent of Digital Dads (versus nearly a third of Average Joes) have actively looked for parenting advice online. So moms, don’t be surprised if the father of your child knows more than you do when it comes to removing a splinter from your child’s thumb or learning about fun ways to get kids to eat more veggies.
Other revealing facts about the online habits of dads? Many proud papas are watching the online habits of their children as a precaution, and many dads feel that technology is now a common language that can create bonding opportunities for them (although more than half of Average Joes believe the nano speed of technology is not only making it hard to keep up but also widening the gap between generations, while less than half of Digital Dads feel the same).
Regardless of whether you’re pro-tech or not, it’s a fact that today’s dads are parenting in new and innovative ways. With roles reversing and dads taking on more typically mom-like responsibilities, look for this digital life to affect fatherhood in many ways. Family bonding is becoming an online endeavor and fathers will take to their social networks this weekend to show off their homemade pancakes or cards. Real moments aren’t disappearing; we’re only sharing and talking about them in a completely different way, just as we’re thinking about dads in a completely different way.
So are dads the new moms? Not necessarily, but they’re using their tech savvy to change the game in ways that Ward Cleaver never thought possible.