The Harvard guide to great 'connected parenting'

Like it or not, we are all “connected parents” now, say Harvard experts Urs Gasser and John Palfrey. But while we shoulder a brand-new portfolio of responsibilities, we can still use traditional parenting strategies to get the job done.

Teens are now spending an average of nine hours a day online. Most kids are getting their first smartphones at age 11 or younger, and virtually all are using screens for classroom and remote learning. Even the majority of today’s toddlers own a mobile device. 

The pace of change has been dizzying. A mere decade ago, the term “screen-time” was practically unknown. Today, the quantity and the quality of time children spend on their devices are consistently identified as a top concern for parents. 

Issues around privacy and so-called “surveillance capitalism” - the practice of companies harvesting user behavioural data to drive profits - have also emerged as growing concerns for parents, not to mention policymakers and lawmakers.

The challenges that face mums and dads in this new digital reality are twofold, say Harvard experts Urs Gasser and John Palfrey:  first, to minimise risks to our children’s health and wellbeing; and second, to maximise their opportunities for positive engagement.

In plain English: to keep our kids safe, and help them grow.

connectedIn their new book The Connected Parent: An Expert Guide to Parenting in a Digital World, Gasser and Palfrey of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, argue that effective connected parenting is more than just Googling advice and tips.

It needs to rest on a solid framework grounded in experience, data and research.

“You should be led in your parenting not by fear, but by the data,” they explain. They urge parents to “get their hands dirty” with technology and to stay on top of current research trends - both positive and negative.

“You don’t have to be on Snapchat all day long, or whatever is the latest technology at that moment, but you need to be credible for your advice to resonate with young people.” 

The number-one takeaway from their research? Parents need to focus on the “lived experience” of the child - in other words, to try to see the world from their child’s perspective. And that means seeing the online world as simply another dimension of experience - not “online” versus “real life,” but just … life.

Citing cyberbullying as an example, they point out that wherever bullying takes place - whether online or offline - “it’s actually all just bullying.”

And that’s good news for parents, because “the research shows that most of the strategies that have worked for us historically in good parenting are going to hold up in this new world too.”

The five keys to excellent connected parenting

  • Have open and ongoing conversations about digital issues.
  • Embrace the positive.
  • Build skills and capacity to minimise risk.
  • Keep an open mind about new technologies.
  • Engage with technology yourself to remain credible and model good behaviour.



Family Zone helps connected parents around the world to build the skills and capacity needed to minimise risk - and maximise advantage.

Create a home where digital children thrive, and start your free trial today.


Tell me more!

Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, Cyber Safety, cyberbullying, digital parenting, connected parenting

    Try Family Zone for FREE

    Sign up now to try Family Zone for 1 month, totally free of charge.

    Free Trial
    Subscribe to our newsletter
    Follow us on social media
    Popular posts
    Parental Controls | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | teens on social media
    Can we talk? 100 questions your teen might actually answer
    Parental Controls | Screen time | youtube | smartphones | WhatsApp | suicide | self-harm | momo
    MOMO unmasked
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | Cyber Experts | parenting | roblox
    Roblox: What parents need to know about this popular gaming platform
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | tinder | Cyber Experts | parenting | yellow
    Yellow: The Tinder for Teens
    Parental Controls | Social Media | privacy | decoy app
    Hide It Pro: A decoy app to look out for
    Cyber Bullying | Parental Controls | Screen time | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | online predators | tiktok | paedophile | child predator | Likee
    LIKEE: What parents need to know about this risky TikTok wannabe

    Recent posts

    Press the reset button on your kid’s online routine

    COVID blew up our teens’ screen-time. It’s time to get them back on track. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, our children are facing a ...

    Bigger families face super-sized screen-time challenges

    If you have more than one child - and statistics show 86 percent of families do - then managing screen-time can be double trouble. Or ...

    'Bigorexia' a growing risk for today's boys

    We’re starting to understand how social media can damage girls’ self-esteem - but what about our boys? New research finds disturbing ...

    The metaverse: Brave new world - or an upgrade for predators?

    Mixing kids and adult strangers in a self-moderated online environment ... What could possibly go wrong?