We tend to think of moms as children’s first teachers, their guides as they learn about and explore the world. But as digital technology becomes a greater part of kids’ everyday lives, are mothers the ones shepherding them online to engage in interactive experiences? When looking at the media and technology co-consumption behaviors of moms and dads with their children, interesting patterns emerge.
In fact, according to our 2014 LMX Family study of the media and technology behaviors and attitudes of parents and kids aged 0-12 years old, dads more often than moms were exploring the digital landscape with their kids. On average, dads spent significantly more time online (over five hours per week) with their children than moms did (under four hours per week). This parental gender skew was even more pronounced when comparing Millennial dads to Millennial moms with the young fathers leading the digital way.
While moms were more likely than dads to do homework or schoolwork with their kids online, dads were more likely than moms to watch online videos with their children. About two-thirds of dads mentioned watching videos as an online activity they shared with their kids—significantly greater than the number of moms who reported sharing that same activity. Again, Millennial dads when compared to Millennial moms were even more likely to partake in online video viewing with their children (74% vs 58%).
And dads are really into watching these online videos with their kids as demonstrated by their high levels of self-reported engagement. More than half of dads (53%) are “very engaged” when watching online video with their children. Cartoons, sports and video game videos were particular father-child favorites.
Dads’ comfort in the digital playground is also evident in the time they spend sharing apps with their children—two more hours per week than moms. While game apps were most popular for both fathers and mothers to share with kids, video, sports, social networking and TV network apps inspired more father-child involvement.
When it comes to traditional shopping for the family, marketers usually focus on moms but, when it comes to pulling out the credit card to download content for their kids online, dads are significantly more likely than moms to pay (68% vs. 56%). This was especially true when comparing Millennial parents by gender. Whether games, movies, music or TV Shows, it is dads more so than moms who see the value in spending real money on virtual goods and experiences.
So why are dads more likely than moms to head online when they want to connect with their children? For one thing, today’s dads more so than moms grew up with digital leisure-time pursuits. Video gaming was an important part of dads’ childhoods and they remember the thrill of digitally-enhanced play. Convenience is another factor that drives dads’ inclination towards online fun. Online videos and apps are self-contained experiences that are not only easy to use wherever and whenever they want but also offer a great deal of content variety. Dads and their kids can find things to laugh at, learn about and listen to all with a quick search. And when it comes to super-charging the fun dads appreciate the value they get with paid digital experience enhancements. In addition, dads feel fun time spent online is time well spent. They are significantly more likely than moms to believe that “playing on devices such as computers and tablets is more beneficial for my child's future than playing with traditional toys.”
As marketers grow investments online, it is useful to remember that in addition to moms, dads are also consumers of digital family fun.