Does Technology Make Parenting Harder?

Paige Geis Bradshaw

Being a parent is hard enough as it is. (Not that I would know, but that’s the word on the street.)

With rapidly changing technology and all the latest gadgets thrown into the mix, today’s parents are navigating a completely new landscape—a challenge the parents and grandparents of yesterday couldn’t have seen coming.

With little to no research revealing the long-term effects that certain technologies have on kids’ developing minds, parents are left to make these tough choices on their own and hope for the best. Social media or no social media? Unlimited TV time and video games or enforced restrictions? Buy them a cell phone now or wait a few more years?

But we do know that technology isn’t all bad. It keeps us connected, entertained, and makes our lives easier in an endless list of ways. Contrarily, it adds complication to our lives, too.

So, does technology make parenting easier? Or does technology make parenting harder? Let’s see what surveyed parents are saying.

Over two-thirds (66%) of parents say parenting is harder now than it ever has been—and technology is to blame.

In 2020, Pew Research Center conducted a survey among American parents with at least one child under the age of 18 in the home. According to this survey, over two-thirds (66%) of parents believe parenting to be more challenging than it was 20 years ago, citing technologies like smartphones and social media as a significant reason why.

To support her vote, a surveyed mom said:

We have so much technology today that was not available 20 years ago. Social media, reality TV shows, and video games have really changed our society and how we interact with each other.

While technology is a major player in this debate, here’s a handful of other factors that swayed surveyed parents’ votes:

  • Social media
  • Violence and drugs
  • Early access and exposure to technology
  • Parents’ employment situation
  • Change in discipline methods
  • Disrespectful and entitled children
  • Harsh criticism of parents
  • Device distractions
  • Less family time
  • Smartphones
  • Bullying and cyberbullying
  • Online predators

Among all parents surveyed, 79% listed technology-related concerns as their top challenges in parenting. To that point, another surveyed mom said:

I think that social media is harmful to kids and their self-concepts and self-images. It’s difficult to combat the messages that they are getting all the time from the outside world. Being a teen is more difficult than it was even 10 years ago, and much more difficult than it was 30 years ago. Parenting through all of the obstacles is really challenging.

Only 7% of parents say technology makes parenting easier than ever before.

In that same surveyed group of parents, only 7% believe parenting is made easier as technology has advanced.*

One #TeamTechnology dad said, “People are better off today. Technology has advanced to make parenting, security, and transportation easier.” An in-favor mom chimed in with, “Technology helps. Our kids are smarter and learn faster.”

How else is parenting a breeze compared to the bleak olden days? Here’s what the tech-lovin’ 7% had to say:

  • Technology access and advancement
  • Better parenting information
  • More childcare options and support
  • Ability to track and contact children
  • More activities to keep kids occupied
  • Less harsh discipline
  • Progressing society

How parents are handling the challenges.

In a separate survey conducted by OnePoll just last year, it was discovered that the average American parent gives their child their first Internet-connected device—all their own—at the age of seven.

But that’s not as young as they come. Nearly a quarter (23%) of surveyed parents said they allow their children to start accessing the Internet between the ages of three and five.

A common theme between these two surveys is the shared belief among parents that kids are growing up too fast. Compared to how kids were brought up even a decade ago, the difference in kids’ exposure to technology today is night and day. Things have changed—and with it, new concerns have arisen.

In response to these rising concerns, parents are taking action! In the OnePoll survey, over 85% of parents reported having regular conversations with their children about staying safe online. Now that’s what we like to hear over here at Troomi!

During these conversations, parents shared that common discussion points include how to identify and respond to negative interactions on social media, inappropriate content, and of course, how to manage screen time. In fact, over 40% of parents said they’ve established plans to keep their kids’ screen time in check, such as:

  • Daily screen time limits
  • Parental control software
  • Content filters
  • Screen-free time every day
  • Screen-free zones at home

There’s always a silver lining!

Even with all this tech talk, a study conducted by Northwestern University suggests that most parents are still opting for other ways to keep their kids occupied. Books, toys, creative outlets, and other activities—not a screen—are first choice.

These parents aren’t totally slamming on tech, either. Many families turn to technology for parenting advice, family movie nights, education for their kids, and so much more!

So, knowing all this—combined with your own experience as a parent—what do you think? Does technology make parenting easier, or does technology make parenting harder? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

*The remaining 26% of surveyed parents believe parenting is “about the same” as it used to be, regardless of technology.