• How do parents and carers approach the task of bringing up their children in the digital age?
  • What is their vision of their children’s future and that of the wider society?
  • What risks or opportunities do they see opening up for them and their children?
  • How do they conceive of being a ‘good parent’ and how do they evaluate the resources available to their children?
  • And how do their children view and respond to their parents’ hopes, fears and values regarding digital media?

Based in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, we are conducting a three-year research project on Parenting for a Digital Future. Supported by the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning initiative, this research is based on a series of qualitative case studies that investigate how children and young people, along with their parents, carers, mentors and educators imagine and prepare for their personal and professional futures in a digital age.

From the days of early films and comics to today’s social networks, tablets and multiplayer online games, technology has always entered into the discourses of parenting, raising new hopes and fears and necessitating shifts in parenting practices. Yet the pace of recent advances in digital media – not to mention talk about smart homes, geo-location apps, driverless cars and the internet of things – leaves many parents and carers increasingly anxious about what these changes will mean for their children, now and in the future. They may or may not be aided by the often-polarised policy and popular media discourses about online dangers or the detrimental effects of ‘screen time’ on the one hand, and a vision of digital media as opening radically-new pathways to academic achievement or self-expression, on the other.

To understand parental conceptions of the ‘digital future,’ we will employ a range of imaginative and creative techniques to stimulate reflection and discussion, drawing on imagery of the future as well as inviting research participants to consider reflect on the changing ecology of childhood since their own youth. Parenting discourses often foreground notions of ‘best practice’ or ‘ideal pathways’ or, more prosaically, what ‘most people do’. But in reality, parents and carers are highly diverse, so we will both explore the different economic, religious, social and cultural contexts in which parents negotiate these choices and also highlight the diversity in parents’ orientations to the digital future, within and across countries.

Connected Learning Research Network

This project is part of the Connected Learning Research Network (CLRN), funded by the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning initiative, which examines how children and young people connect their learning experiences in school, home, with peers and in interest-driven activities. CLRN advocates for parents, schools and government to support learning that reflects and is embedded in children and young people’s social worlds and interests, and helps create equal educational, economic and political opportunity.

It follows on from The Class, an ethnographic study conducted by Sonia Livingstone and Julian Sefton-Green (2011-2013) which examined the emerging mix of on- and offline experiences in teenagers’ daily learning lives. This will be published as a book in 2015.

For our academic publications on parenting in the digital age click here and navigate to “Outputs”.