Facing the Screen: Millennial Parents are Embracing Technology as a Developmental Tool for Children

Posted by: Laura Fromm

Screen time is inevitable for kids of Millennial parents. By age eight, 72 percent of children have used a mobile device of some kind. While the effects of tech use are not entirely known, studies are being done to determine the impact of technology on the newest generation. Instead of running scared, Millennial parents today are now focusing on how they use technology to positively enhance their children’s development not if they going to use technology.

Leaving a lasting impression

Research has proven that brains are more impressionable during early childhood and puberty than during adult life. Now that children are trading playing outside for screen time, there is a greater fear that technology is replacing imaginative and creative play and is also weakening social skills. In Psychology Today, child development experts note that frequent exposure to technology is wiring the brain differently because children’s’ brains are still developing. Due to the tendency to multi-task online, children are now developing shorter attention spans than kids of previous generations.

However, many Millennial parents are creating a more balanced approach to tech in the home and leveraging new advances to help child development rather than hinder it. The rise of the Internet has led to our ability to scan information at a quicker, more efficient rate creating a generation of young consumers that are learning to be more resourceful. With easy access to the Internet and search engines, children no longer need to have a strong memory for recalling information as they do knowledge for where to find it. With less emphasis on memorization, children can now spend their effort focusing on “higher –order” functions such as problem solving and critical thinking.

Who’s getting it right?

Despite the research and what professionals say, it is unavoidable that children today are growing up with technology and Millennial parents are embracing that change. Overall, Millennial parents tend to want their children using technological tools effectively and are calling for increased exposure at school. According to the findings from a research study conducted by the Center for a Digital Future, only 47 percent of parents aged 18 to 34 said teachers in their children’s schools are “adequately preparing them to use new technologies,” compared to 59 percent of non-Millennial parents. Furthermore, Millennial parents are calling for an increase in the quality of technology education as well. Fifty-one percent of Millennial parents said the technology in schools was adequate, compared to 56 percent of non-Millennials.

One brand that has found a way to span the bridge between education and tech is an app called Martha Speaks. Children between the ages of three and seven who used the app increased their vocabulary by as much as 31 percent in two weeks, according to a 2010 study done by PBS. The prospective positive impact technology can have on kids is having its effect on the market place as well. Nearly three-fourths of 18-to 34-year-old respondents to eMarketer survey stated they had or intended to purchase apps for their children. On the other hand, non-Millennial parents aged 45 and older were the least likely to buy apps for their kids with 38 percent saying they never have and do not plan to.

The amount of time children spend on computers, cell phones, video games and watching television is growing. In 2011, the average time a child younger than eight years old spent on a mobile device was five minutes per day. This has tripled to 15 minutes per day on a mobile phone. For better or for worse, experts can agree that the technology boom is bringing about an evolution in behavioral norms for children that will become more profound with time. Millennial parents are becoming digital educators and are trending toward embracing screen time as a useful developmental tool for their children.

For brands this means that connecting with Millennial parents in the digital space means finding the right balance between tech, innovation and education in order to create something valuable and meaningful that parents can feel good about supporting.

About Laura Fromm

Laura recently graduated summa cum laude from Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business. Laura has experience working on social strategies for clients ranging from Blue Bunny to On the Border. Her experience at Yelp...See Laura's full bio.