Parenting for a Digital Future: How Hopes and Fears about Technology Shape Children’s Lives

On July 29, 2020, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center hosted a virtual book release party for our friends Sonia Livingstone and Alicia Blum-Ross, authors of Parenting for a Digital Future. We invited Anya Kamenetz, an education reporter for NPR and the author of The Art of Screen Time, to join us in a conversation about the challenges and opportunities that parents navigate as they raise children in a digital landscape.

“The digital has become the terrain on which we negotiate who we are,” said Livingstone. “Through our talk about technology, we’re talking about our identities, our relationships, our values, and our children’s life chances. And with that in mind, I think you can see how easy it is that anxieties and family arguments about technology become so fraught.”

The authors discussed three main patterns that they have identified among parents’ strategies for raising children in a digital age:

  • embracing, in which parents seek digital technologies for themselves and their children;
  • balancing, in which parents encourage some digital practices but not others; and
  • resisting, even if it means not allowing their child to engage with something their peers have.

Livingstone and Blum-Ross pointed out that parents are doing their best to ensure that their children are prepared for a future full of unknowns; but at the same time, they are struggling to make sense of the “tsunami” of constant change with very little expert guidance about the opportunities of digital media versus the perhaps more publicized risks of too much screen time.

Now that we are in a COVID-19 world, Kamenetz wondered if resistance as a strategy may have faded into the background. Blum-Ross pointed out that some parents still resist “because they have other values they want to live out.” But so much of our lives are mediated through screens for work, school, and play, that it is even more evident that parents need—and want—expert advice as they seek to ensure that their children’s engagement with digital technologies fits within their family values and goals.

We hope that you will enjoy the recording of our conversation here—and please stay tuned for a follow-up post in which the authors respond to some of the many questions that we received both before and during the presentation!

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