The Challenges of a Modern Day Dad

It’s the week leading up to Father’s Day and really the first full-bore week of summer vacation for my kids both. And since their Mom’s out of town, all three of them are with me this week. Bored, bored, bored. Which is making getting anything accomplished — and I have a lot on my to-do list, as always — difficult.

infographic 1Summer camps? Nope. Trips? Eventually, but not this week. Friends? Most are out of town, and those that aren’t generally seem to involve me then having to shuttle people around throughout the day. Benefit? Not so much. And of course my 9yo girl K-, who is the least able to entertain herself without bugging her dear old dad, there are none of her usual friends and classmates around to go over for a few hours.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in the benefit of children getting bored, because boredom spawns creativity and imagination.

Or at least, it should.

In fact, we modern parents have a far more difficult road to travel because it seems like instead of playing a board game, going out to run around, doing crafts, even calling friends, my kids are doing what most modern kids do: turning to their electronics. UGH. I hate it. And they have a daily allotment of time. But what’s to do otherwise?

That’s why the timing was perfect when Procter & Gamble asked me if I’d pitch in as part of the “Modern Day Dads” campaign as part of their Thank you, Mom campaign that’s celebrating Dads for all we do for our families. Great, but P&G’s doing it under the rubric of the “Thank You Mom” campaign, which upsets me a little bit because we dads shouldn’t be second class citizens, so “Thank You Dad” would be a better campaign, but… it’s still interesting data, so let’s have a look.

P&G surveyed dads and came up with some provocative results, some of which are what I’d expect and others of which are actually lower than I’d expect from modern day dads. For example, as highlighted above, 65% of dads say that they have a different parenting style than their own fathers. Which surprises me, because just about every father I talk to says that he’s more empathetic, more gentle and more forgiving than his own father. Possible explanation: Our memories of our own childhoods, our memories of how our fathers were involved in parenting might just be skewed and inaccurate. Maybe our own dads were more like us fathers than we realize? Or, more in line with these results, there are a lot of dads giving their own fathers the benefit of the doubt?

infographic 2The other stat I wanted to highlight, as it’s exactly in line with my own feelings as we move into a summer that seems like it’s going to be more defined by electronics than anything else: 73% of dads say that it’s harder to parent youngsters today than at any time in history due to the advances in technology and social media.

Given that I watch my 16yo daughter A- lay on the couch fiddling with her iPhone for what seems to be hours, and when queried, she says “Instagram” or “texting” or “Pinterest” or “Facebook”, well, not only weren’t the devices available when I was a kid, but the social networks weren’t around either. In fact, when I was growing up, “social network” referred to my friends in the neighborhood and my transportation device of choice in this info highway was my bike.

Again, though, what’s interesting to consider are the 27% of dads who think that the growth in personal devices and the Internet either has made parenting easier or, perhaps, hasn’t affected how dads parent young children. Really, what planet are they living on? Or perhaps they’re the theoretical dads who have a 6mo and are projecting into the future, inaccurately. 🙂

Then again, I have friends who let their kids swim in the deep end of technology, young kids around 9 or 10 who have full Internet access, portable devices and their own smartphones. No time limits, they can play Xbox or poke around on Pinterest to their heart’s content. And just occasionally, I wonder if that’s not how I should work with my children too, just let them find their own limits.

Then I come to my senses and realize that I don’t want to be around “users” (in the classic Tron usage of the word) but around interesting children and young adults who can have conversations, engage in activities, and have a social network that extends far beyond a glowing 2.5″ screen.

Here’s the full infographic, btw. I encourage you to click on it to read it full size:

P&G infographic for Father's Day

Provocative stuff, P&G, and thanks for sharing. Now, dear reader, what’s your take? What of the stats in this infographic surprise you and what do you think is spot on?

Disclaimer: Procter & Gamble paid me a nominal fee for helping spread the word about their research and the resultant Modern Day Day infographic. But my opinions are, of course, my own.

2 comments on “The Challenges of a Modern Day Dad

  1. Dave,

    I think every issue has 2-sides of the coin.

    “73% of dads say that it’s harder to parent youngsters today than at any time in history due to the advances in technology and social media”. I am not so sure that is the root problem.

    Is technology a potential distraction for parenting? Possibly. But technology can be used for good and for parenting.

    For example, if your daughter loves music videos from Youtube, why not watch them with her and build the bond and relationship using ‘technology’?

    Thanks for sharing, by the way.


  2. […] I participated in the Procter & Gamble World’s Greatest Dad campaign, but did it a bit backwards: I was supposed to write about the #WorldsGreatest hashtag twitter campaign first, then write about the challenges parents face with children soaking happily in social media and the Internet. Me? I don’t follow rules so well, and instead wrote about online safety first, as faithful readers know. In fact, here’s the article: The Challenges of a Modern Day Dad. […]

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