Good Digital Parenting
Blog | May 17, 2013

The Parent Zone: Engaging and Empowering Parents in the Digital Age

CEO, The Parent Zone

There are some things that are almost impossible to imagine until they happen to you. Being a parent is probably top of that list. Nothing can prepare you for the feelings you experience when you become a parent, and not much can help you anticipate the myriad of challenges that parenting brings. Every parent worries about getting it right because nobody cares about a child more than that child’s parent.

From the moment a parent takes a child home from hospital and for the rest of that child’s life, parents care. They fret, they hope and they try to do the right thing.

And here is the tricky bit. If parents were able to raise children in their own family bubble, doing the right thing might be pretty easy. The really big challenges come when the world meets your family life: juggling work and childcare, holding back the commercial pressures that are driven directly to your child, and grappling with peer pressure that draws children towards all sorts of behaviours that within the confines of family life seem unfeasibly risky or sometimes just downright daft.

When I set up The Parent Zone in 2005 it was because I was sick of parents being first ignored and then blamed – often in the same breath by the same policy makers. Companies would target children with their products and services using every marketing tool in their armory and then blithely expect parents to cope with any negative consequences. And it wasn’t just companies. Schools would do nothing to provide parents with information about what their children were learning in school, and then blame parents for not being involved in their children’s learning. If parenting is tough, the bottom line is that the world at large seems set on doing whatever it can to make it tougher. Our job at The Parent Zone is to make it easier. Simples, as my 14 year old would say.

Those of you with a keen eye for detail might recognise that as a rather big challenge. As with all rather big challenges, we break it down to the following:

  • We focus on making sure that parents have the information they need to make informed choices. That’s why when Vodafone asked us how to reach parents we suggested a magazine. We are delighted to be working with them to produce a third edition which will take distribution to over 1 million parents. 
  • We listen to parents and we look at the evidence. People don’t often do that. Our favourite example is the TV in a child’s bedroom. Yes, we know it’s not a good idea and yes we know that ‘professionals’ like to use the statistics of how many parents allow their children to have TV’s in the bedroom as a stick to beat parents with. But we also know that lots of parents don’t have homes large enough to provide their children with any space other than their bedroom to play in. We also know that if you’re a parent who hasn’t slept through the night for years and discovers that cartoons in the bedroom can earn you an extra 10 minutes in bed at 5am, you’re going to be very tempted to make that happen. We know that because we understand the evidence AND the parenting behaviour.
  • We work with the places where parents go. This translates to us rolling up our sleeves and helping organisations to get it right. Companies, government, charities and schools – we know that the best way to make life easier for parents is to minimise the things that make life harder. Things like store layouts that put the baby department behind the china section. Or advertising that encourages children to pester their parents for products that their parents don’t want them to have – or can’t afford to buy them.

But how does technology affect parenting? This is the big question. It's the defining aspect of this generation of parents. Check back next week to read how The Parent Zone approaches the benefits and challenges of technology for the modern family.

To find out more about The Parent Zone visit www.theparentzone.co.uk and follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TheParentsZone or email jemma@theparentzone.co.uk.