Move over, tech-savvy moms — digital dads are hitting the scene, finding new ways to connect with kids and turning newfound “geek” abilities into cool cred with the kiddies.
Most people guess moms are hipper with technology than dads, but a recent survey indicates dads are gaining ground and even surpassing their female counterparts. The array of tools, from social networking and blogging to remote communications like Skype, are striking a chord with growing number of fathers and helping them cement their personal relationships.
Fathers Unite With Social Media, Blogs
Fathers are making the most of the social element of social networking, counting more than 26 more online friends than mothers on average, according OnlineSchools.com. Surprising, they were even 7 percent more likely to friend their kids on a social network and spend more time interacting with children in the digital realm than the moms.
In addition to connecting with their children, dads are increasingly using social media to connect with each other, sharing links to sports stories and reading bloggers who write about hobbies they enjoy, from tinkering with cars to the latest electronic gadgets. Men are making the most of online communities and, as a result, there is a growing attention to the male parenting perspective in many child-centric online communities.
For example, DadLabs.com is an online resource for parents from a father’s point of view. Visitors can take a look at over 800 videos, covering a huge range of subjects like the “dadchelor party” — a get-together for dads-to-be that involves guests bringing diapers, host dispensing beer and everyone watching a movie or sporting event — to a “babymoon,” where dads take the mom-to-be on a relaxing weekend of pampering.
The site lets parents share ideas and experiences in forums like “photography,” where they can share tips on the best ways to take pictures of newborns and shoot their pregnant wife’s belly, and “cars, trucks and mini-vans” where they can debate the best family vehicles.
Digital Dads Rule!
In many ways, dads are surpassing their female counterparts with their tech know-how and reaping the rewards.
A generation ago, the inability of parents, fathers in particular, to even set the clock on the VCR was fodder for laughs, but today’s dad is a virtual maestro of mobile devices — programming his own smartphone, setting up the kids’ tablet and monitoring the home Wi-Fi. The ubiquity of workplace technology is blurring the line between office and home communication, and tech-savvy dads are finding themselves in-demand.
In their “Confessions of a Geek Dad Survey,” Cisco Systems found fathers who responded they were capable of setting up technology in their home also felt more effective and confidence with their parenting skills.
About 70 percent of these dads say their kids think they are cool because of their tech know-how, turning the “geek” moniker into a compliment, at least according to the whopping 87 percent of fathers who reported taking pride in the name.
The smart home may extend dads’ domain, in a home where the fridge generates a shopping list, the smartphone controls the door locks and home thermostatand the countertops become a giant touch-centric tablet.
Today’s dads are picking up on the home-tech trend, underscored by the Cisco survey finding that 75 percent of fathers attribute their coolness factor to creating the home where their kids’ friends love to hang out. Somehow, the ability of fathers from earlier generations to keep the hot water heater going, change the oil in the car, or mow the grass never inspired the same youthful awe.
Austin, Tex.-based DadLabs’ co-founder and chief creative officer Clay Nichols agrees that dads who understand their kids’ language have a natural edge because they can more naturally engage and interact with their children using their medium of choice. “Fathers that play with the kids have always been cool,” Nichols said, but the author warned that as the kids age, the luster of this knowledge can wear off.
“Tech savvy or geeky dads also tend to be much more involved and more likely to supervise kids’ digital lives,” Nichols, a father of three, says. “This kind of watchfulness, while extremely healthy, may or may not be judged as ‘cool,’ especially by teens.”
Many fathers use tech to up their cool factor with their children. But others are also using tech tools to deepen personal connections with their children and strengthen the ties that bind. For these dads, especially those in active military service, technology is serving as sometimes a more direct link to the home front.
Skype is Next Best Thing to Being There
New dads in the military can witness their baby’s first precious cries and support their wives during labor through the Defense Department’s Skype birthing rooms for troops in Afghanistan.
The government’s program uses portable iPods, smartphones, and cooperating hospitals to bring military families together for the miracle of childbirth.
For some time, individual soldiers as well as fathers who traveled for work, managed to get use Skype accounts to “be there” for momentous events, like their children’s births. The technology benefits entire families as the traveling father feels like a participant, the laboring mom feels supported, and the children feel more connected during these important milestones.
Whether Dad is one of the growing number of fathers whose gadget geekiness is suddenly cool or he’s still trying to get the hang of social networks and mobile technology, there is little doubt dads are uncovering some powerful ways to connect with their families in the digital era.