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Growing up in a digital world: parenting Generation Alpha

Prepare for Generation Alpha to become the new must-target demographic

We’re living through a digital era that’s radically reshaping the way we live, work and play. For Generation Alpha – that’s kids born from 2010 onwards – it’s also reshaping the way they’ll grow up. As brands begin to focus on Gen Alpha, what are their responsibilities when using technology to contact this young demographic – and how will parents react?

Family of three using a laptop on the sofa

Technology in the home

Today’s technology is typically introduced into the family home by parents. And most consider it to be an enhancement – rather than a threat or an intrusion – to their daily lives. But this, of course, has its drawbacks.

Tech “hides” in plain sight, making it progressively harder for users to distinguish between offline and online experiences. And the sheer abundance of platforms and content available makes controlling and monitoring online experiences an increasingly complex challenge.

This is an existential concern that individuals, businesses, governments and other international institutions must grapple with – and answer – when designing digital experiences.


Little girl playing on her IPad

The changing attitudes of parenting

While no family is the same, parental attitudes to technology have typically been divided into three categories:


1. Embracing

Parents seek out technology for their children to ease the pressures of family life or to exercise academic potential. As early adopters, they like to stay ahead of the curve. But because of this, they run the risk of exposing themselves to unknown challenges.


2. Balancing

These families hedge their bets on technology on an ad hoc, inconsistent basis, weighing each digital touchpoint in terms of current risks and future impact. They’re consistently questioning: “Am I getting it right? Is this new device/platform OK?”


3. Resisting

Resistant families describe trying to stem the unstoppable incursion of technology into everyday life. This can cause worry that they might be missing out professionally and personally and risks alienating their children. This position tends to be value driven, with many keen to reduce the impact of commercialism which they see as the driving force of technology.

These attitudes can differ between family members, by child or even by time of day. And this is another reason why tech can cause so much friction among modern families.

The idea of “policing” device usage is losing ground, both because it’s difficult to implement and because it negatively reinforces an unknowable “damage” on children who regularly use technology. Instead, family conversations are now shifting to focus on a more democratic concept of digital use, talking about it as a communal, interactive “good”. Attitudes towards capping time on devices are also changing, mostly because tech is so embedded in our day-to-day activities.

Despite these shifts, because of the speed at which the tech we use is changing, many parents are still worried about how life online will impact their children. And the fact that questions around digital harm remain unanswered is itself a significant concern.

Combating digital challenges

Brands that operate in the digital space have an important role to play in supporting families navigating our digital world. Resources for parents facing digital challenges are sparse, and many people don’t even know how often they’re breaking their own rules. It’s why businesses have a responsibility to own up to the impact their influence may have on their customers.

The language we use to talk about tech is key to supporting and reassuring hesitant consumers. It’s also important to strike a balance between benefit and harm:

Brands can help families navigate technology

John Lewis is a great example of a brand that’s stepping up to the challenge. After partnering with online safety organisation Internet Matters, the department store has become the first in the UK to offer specialist advice on internet safety.

Technology is already providing a range of exciting opportunities for brands to connect with families and their children. However, it is up to individual brands to decide where their responsibilities lie.

This article is an extract of our latest THINK insight report for 2023–24. Click here to access the full publication.

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