The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age

The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age

The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age

The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age


Ninety-five percent of American kids have Internet access by age 11; the average number of texts a teenager sends each month is well over 3,000. More families report that technology makes life with children more challenging, not less, as parents today struggle with questions previous generations never faced: Is my thirteen-year-old responsible enough for a Facebook page? What will happen if I give my nine year-old a cell phone?

In The Parent App, Lynn Schofield Clark provides what families have been sorely lacking: smart, sensitive, and effective strategies for coping with the dilemmas of digital and mobile media in modern life. Clark set about interviewing scores of mothers and fathers, identifying not only their various approaches, but how they differ according to family income. Parents in upper-income families encourage their children to use media to enhance their education and self-development and to avoid use that might distract them from goals of high achievement. Lower income families, in contrast, encourage the use of digital and mobile media in ways that are respectful, compliant toward parents, and family-focused. Each approach has its own benefits and drawbacks, and whatever the parenting style or economic bracket, parents experience anxiety about how to manage new technology. With the understanding of a parent of teens and the rigor of a social scientist, Clark tackles a host of issues, such as family communication, online predators, cyber bullying, sexting, gamer drop-outs, helicopter parenting, technological monitoring, the effectiveness of strict controls, and much more.

The Parent Appis more than an advice manual. As Clark admits, technology changes too rapidly for that. Rather, she puts parenting in context, exploring the meaning of media challenges and the consequences of our responses-for our lives as family members and as members of society.


It’s 2:45 p.m. and I’m late—again. My husband, Jon, already texted me to tell me that he was going to be at a meeting, a subtle reminder that it’s my turn to pick up the kids today. I left my office on time, but I’d forgotten to allow for the construction project at the end of Evans Avenue, the main thoroughfare separating my office from the highway. So I’ve got my iPhone on the seat next to me, at the ready for when I hit the next red light, and I’m already scrolling through the list in my head. Should I call Delia? No, she’s working on Thursdays; so is Suelita, and she always works until six. Keiko and Mike are at work, too, and Jodi’s got to take her boys to baseball right after school. Laura, my friend who’s a dedicated stay-athome mom, just helped me out two days ago; I’m too embarrassed to have to ask her to bail me out again. Red light: what’s the plan? I decide to call Margie, who works at the school’s front desk, and ask her to catch my young family members as they exit the school and let them know I’m on my way. But I dread that, too: who knows what the school staff does with the dirt they have on chronically late parents like me? I suddenly find myself wishing, for the very first time, that my ten-year-old had a cell phone. Life would be so easy then, I muse. I could simply call Jonathan and tell him that I will be there ten minutes after school lets out, and ask him to alert his younger sister so that they can wait for me together. Such a call might have an added benefit, too: maybe I could forestall “the look” (any parent who’s ever been late for pickup will know exactly which guiltinducing look I’m talking about).

I quickly dismiss the idea of getting him a cell phone. I couldn’t do that, because then eight-year-old Allison would be more convinced than ever . . .

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