Digital Parenting Tools for Millennial Families

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Millennials were the first generation to have widespread access to digital technology before adulthood and they have enthusiastically adopted digital tools to manage daily life. They embraced the opportunity to integrate mobile technology into everything they do, from communicating with loved ones to monitoring home security. It’s no surprise that as they take on the challenges of parenthood, they are eager to explore tools designed for keeping children safe - both online and out in the world.

Millennial Parents by the Numbers 

By most definitions, the millennial generation includes those born between 1981 and 1996. That means the oldest are on the cusp of hitting their 40th birthdays. When compared to previous generations, millennials are waiting longer to marry and start their families. In 2019, just 55 percent lived with a spouse, a child, or both. At the same age, 66 percent of generation X-ers, 69 percent of baby boomers, and 85 percent of the silent generation were part of a family unit. 

That isn’t to say that millennials have turned away from family life - just that they are putting it off longer than preceding generations. Both the median age at which a first marriage occurs as well as the median age at which a first child is born have gone up. However, when they do start their families, millennial women are having as many or more children than their parents. Given the sheer size of this generation, that means many, many babies will be born to millennials. 

Consider this: as of July 1, 2019, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest living generation in the United States with 72.1 million total members. If trends continue on their current track, American moms in this cohort will give birth to a total of 75 million children. Approximately 75 percent of those children will have been born by 2023, and another 15 percent are expected by 2028. The last of the babies born to millennial parents may come as late as 2035. From these figures, it's safe to assume that these parents will have significant influence on the types of products and services needed through 2040 and beyond. 

Parenting Philosophy: Millennial Edition

Millennials haven’t just upended traditions around the timing of marriage and family. They have completely rewritten the playbook when it comes to how they parent. There are a variety of reasons why this is so, but two are particularly influential. 

First, millennial parents have access to an extraordinary number of resources as a result of their nearly universal internet access. They consult experts and research techniques for everything from setting bedtime routines to encouraging healthy eating, and they are more likely to look online for answers than to ask friends and family members. 

Second, as mentioned, millennial parents are generally older than previous generations when they have their first child. For the most part, that means they are better educated and more financially secure than younger parents, though it is important to note that this generation is less financially secure as a whole than previous generations at the same age. These characteristics change the approach to child-rearing, particularly around discipline, safety, use of technology, and childcare when parents work outside the home. 

Specifically, when it comes to discipline, millennial parents are far more likely to favor positive reinforcement and natural consequences over traditional punishments. They tend to dedicate more time to talking through feelings and exploring alternative methods of managing emotions, rather than insisting on strict obedience. 

Millennial parents are less inclined towards the “helicopter” parenting style, but that doesn’t mean they ignore safety considerations. In fact, they tend to be more focused on safety than previous generations, but they employ a “drone” approach by monitoring from a distance, rather than becoming intimately involved in every interaction their child has with peers and adult caregivers. 

Playtime is less scheduled and more unstructured, but that comes with a caveat - millennial parents want the ability to keep a close eye on where their children are and what they are doing at any given moment. After all, dangers haven’t declined. If anything, they have become more prevalent and complex. Today’s parents are responsible for protecting children from those who might harm them both in the course of their daily routine and through online interactions. 

Technology is a double-edged sword for millennial parents. On one hand, it offers access to a wide variety of tools for education and entertainment. On the other hand, it exposes children to strangers that they wouldn’t otherwise come in contact with. Finding a balance between maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks of technology is a challenge - particularly when both parents are working full-time. 

Millennial Parents’ Most-Wanted Tools and Resources

Given the challenges of parenting in the digital age, millennials are in desperate search of solutions that simplify. That extends to more effective methods of managing children’s screen time monitoring their online activity, and coordinating complicated and conflicting family schedules. It’s no surprise that these digital-first parents are looking to technology for answers - and they are finding just what they need in a new breed of solution - comprehensive family safety apps.

These mobile apps combine in-demand features into a single interface. They offer opportunities to reinforce good behavior with digital rewards like additional screen time or video game access, along with standard family safety app features like location tracking, parental controls, and screen time management. Apps that integrate all of this functionality into one interface streamlines digital parenting thus easing the daily burden of millennials juggling work, kids, home, and play. 

Several mobile operators have deployed Smith Micro's SafePath® platform to deliver comprehensive family safety apps to digital-first families. As a white-label solution, operators are able to customize SafePath to align with their brand and deliver the functionality that their subscribers want most. Learn more >>

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