Forget Helicopter Parenting: Millennials are Into Drones

Drone Parenting
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Parenting has certainly changed drastically over the past few decades. And while we usually talk about how kids are using technology, the truth is, many parents are incorporating technology into their parenting strategies.

To gain more insight into how today's parents are doing things a little differently, I've interviewed Ryan Jenkins, an internationally recognized Millennial keynote speaker, and author. He has experience helping leaders thrive in today’s multi-generational marketplace, and he understands how Millennial parents operate.

Amy Morin: For people who aren't familiar with the term, what age range are you referring to when you describe Millennials?

Ryan Jenkins: Millennials are individuals born between 1980-1999. Also known as “Generation Y,” they are the largest generation on the planet and are 80 million strong in the U.S. alone. By 2025, they will make up 75% of the workforce. What makes them stand-out from previous generations is their high-tech and hyper-connected upbringing. Technology and the Internet have fundamentally shaped how they think, communicate, work, problem solve, buy, and parent. 

Morin: What are some key traits that make Millennial parents stand out?

Jenkins: Millennials make up the majority of new moms, with 83% of new moms being Millennials. According to Advertising Age, 40% of Millennials are already parents and in the next 10-15 years, 80% of them will be parents. They will try to balance career and work - 61% of Millennial moms are in the workforce. They will remain socially conscious as parents - 50% of Millennial parents say they try to buy products that support causes or charities. And for most Millennials, becoming a “good parent” is their top priority in life.

Morin: How will Millennial parents be different than previous generations?

Jenkins: In one word, technology. Unlike their parents, 86% of Millennials are trying to - or will try to - avoid being a "helicopter parent” according to Ypulse. As Millennials continue to be eager to pursue their career and/or start a business, they will turn to technology to strike the necessary balance they desire as new parents. Today’s tech acts like a second set of eyes tracking their children’s every move, mood, and heartbeat.

Instead of being helicopter parents, I believe Millennials will be drone parents. Generation Z, the youngest generation and the offspring of Millennials, is growing up tech-supervised at every turn of their life with wireless baby monitors, baby wearables, parenting apps, smart home cameras, and cell phone trackers. In many cases, Millennials will collect data, optimize, and monitor their children from afar using a mobile device.

Morin: How are Millennials likely to discipline their children?

Jenkins: Millennials will be heavily persuaded by their peers when it comes to discipline. Many Millennials will use their mobile devices to discipline on-the-fly by using apps or searching parenting blogs for the appropriate consequence for a particular situation. Disciplining cyberbullying and/or the digital etiquette of the emerging generation will grow and the Millennials hopefully will be better equipped than other generations to step in and discipline digitally.

I also anticipate that Millennials will use technology to limit the freedom of their children as a discipline tactic.

For example, a Millennial parent could begin tracking their child’s exact whereabouts, or limit where they go by setting up a geofence, or monitor their online activity, or (gasp) change the wifi password at home.

Morin: How are Millennials likely to use technology to supervise, monitor, or discipline their children?

Jenkins: There is no doubt Millennial parents will leverage technology, specifically mobile devices, to level-up their parenting. In fact, three-quarters of Millennial moms report searching for parenting advice on their mobile device.

When it comes to using technology to supervise, monitor, and discipline their children, Millennials are likely to use some of the following:

  • Ignore No More is an app that allows parents to shut down everything but parent-approved contacts on their children’s phone. To receive the unlock passcode, the child has to call home. 
  • Sproutling is the first predictive wearable for babies. Sproutling allows parents to quantify all of their baby’s actions and track the info on a mobile app that shows data like heart rate, sleep position, alerts when the baby is about to wake up, and predicts what mood they’ll be in. The app also tracks light, noise, and temperature in the nursery.
  • Mimo is a onesie equipped with a chip that monitors vitals and movement.
  • Owlet is a smart sock that sends your baby’s vital signs to your smartphone.
  • The Toyota 2015 Sienna comes with “Driver Easy Speak” which is a system that amplifies driving parents’ voices into the backseat so they can be “heard over their kids’ screaming.” 
  • Smart home cameras that allow parents to view live video remotely to ensure children are home safe and have started their homework.

Morin: There are lots of warnings about the importance of limiting screen time for kids. Are Millennial parents likely to share that concern or are they more likely to focus on wanting their children to be technologically savvy? 

Jenkins: I believe Millennials view it as a growing concern but they will ultimately encourage their children to use technology. I think it’s important that Millennials help their children view technology as a tool to be mastered and not merely an escape. According to Common Sense Media, 38% of children under 2 have used a mobile device for playing games, watching videos or other media-related purposes.

Many Millennial’s tech habits are a wreck. They are either drawing in an email, addicted to Snapchat, or allowing Facebook to steal their focus. But their blatant disregard for establishing a balance with technology isn’t reason to deny the emerging generation of the tools that they will surely interact with the world. I believe denying the youth of “screen time,” will result in them overvaluing technology and ultimately abusing it.

I don’t think it matters how young Millennial’s kids are when they introduce them to technology but rather what matters is how involved they get as a parent in guiding their use of it. Because they are digital natives, Millennials are better equipped to monitor and influence their children’s technology use. But Millennials must also practice a healthy diet of connected and disconnected behaviors to serve as their children's role model of how best to leverage tech to enrich life while still remaining human.

Morin: What is your advice for Millennial parents?

Jenkins: Lean into technology but be cautious of the over-reliance of technology that could ultimately dull your parenting instincts. Be wary of technology replacing your human instinct, loving touch, and supportive physical presence. Lastly, my favorite parenting advice came from the world’s leadership authority, John C. Maxwell, who said, “There’s only three things you need to do as a parent: love your children unconditionally, expose them to extraordinary people and places, and help them discover and pursue their strengths.”

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