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How Parents Are Using the Internet

Wednesday, August 16, 2006
This Pew Internet Life report -- The Internet's Growing Role in Life's Major Moments -- points out how the Internet has evolved from a one-way communication tool (a place where online materials spoke at you) to a place where ideas and support are actively exchanged.

While the document talks about ways the Internet helps individuals to cope with illness, financial crises, and other major life adjustments, oddly enough the researchers neglected to consider how the Internet assists with The Mother of All Life Adjustments -- becoming a new parent.

With an estimated 32 million moms seeking out parent-driven content (think Parent Hacks) and mom-to-mom or parent-to-parent support (the kind of sharing that happens in the blogs we all know, love, bookmark, and gravitate towards day after day), I wish the Pew researchers had focused more on how parents use the Internet. We're looking for more than just help choosing a college for junior -- the only parent-specific "major moment" that the Pew report zeroes in on.

I think that the real "major moments" for parents (and parents-to-be) happen a whole lot sooner than that -- when you're trying to conceive (and stuck in "pregnancy limbo -- when it's too early to test), dealing with infertility (primary or secondary), miscarriage, stillbirth, grief, pregnancy worries and concerns, adoption issues, new parent panic, relationship worries and concerns, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding issues, bad/bossy advice, the joys and challenges of parenting a child with any kind of special issue/need (and that covers a huge range of kids), dealing with your own needs when you're a mom, postpartum depression, toddler freakouts (yours and theirs), playgroup etiquette (yours and theirs), birthday party insanity, healthcare scares (yours and theirs), school issues, tween issues, body image concerns, teen issues, dating issues..... and it goes on and on.

If you type "parenting help" into Google, you'll get 70,300,000 hits. (Surprisingly, if you type "parenting advice," you'll only get 28,800,000 hits. Now that's a surprise!)

Type "choosing a college" and you'll get 53,600,000 hits (as opposed to 2,010,000 for "choosing childcare"). Clearly parents -- and teens -- are expending a lot of angst when it comes to finding the right college. But that doesn't mean that the Internet is a college-choosing tool only for parents. Far from it. Just look at the sheer number of parenting blogs (I get 14,000,000 hits when I search that term on Google.) And I've yet to stumble across a blog devoted to choosing a college for junior. (I imagine there are plenty out there. I just haven't found one yet. However, that's going to be on my parental radar screen this year, so if links to blogs like "Crabby and College Poor" and "Testy Because of Tuition" show up in my links, you'll know what's up.)

[Note: it's really hard to find Dad-specific Internet stats. (Mom-specific stats are quite plentiful.) If anyone knows of any good Dad Internet usage stats, please let me know.]

| posted by Ann D @ 12:25 PM