Rules-Based vs. Values-Based Parenting Styles – How the Family’s Relationship with Technology Has Shifted


Rules-Based vs. Values-Based Parenting Styles – How the Family’s Relationship with Technology Has Shifted

November 10, 2021

The COVID Effect – How the Pandemic Changed Our Relationship with Digital Technology

The pandemic had a profound impact on health-related behaviors, but that’s not the only thing that changed. COVID-19 transformed fundamental components of day-to-day life, including education, work, and consumer habits. 

Students and teachers explored the benefits and obstacles of online learning, and professionals abandoned their offices in favor of working from dining room tables. E-commerce grew its market share at an unprecedented rate, and options for online participation in everything from therapy to family gatherings became standard practice. 

For parents, the new reliance on technology upended pre-COVID plans to curb screen time in favor of alternative activities. Parents and children alike began dealing with entirely new challenges in their relationship with technology as the pandemic unfolded. Now, many parents are trying to balance increased screen time with meaningful discussions about technology with their children — and it’s not easy.

Parents’ Perspective – Key Findings from the Smith Micro COVID Concerns Survey 

In 2020, Smith Micro conducted a survey to better understand how the pandemic has affected the views of American parents regarding the social interactions, digital activities, and online safety of their school-age children. 

Based on the information gathered from 2,000 respondents, two things are clear. First, the needs of parents have changed as they face new challenges brought about by COVID-19. Second, they still feel overwhelmed. 

Key findings include:

  • 64% of parents find it difficult to monitor their child’s location and online activity.
  • 70% are more concerned about internet safety than ever before.
  • 85% of parents have been made aware of undesirable internet behavior by their children.
  • 68% of parents understand that it could signal a lack of trust if they are too intrusive.

Parents emphasized their interest in digital tools that can help improve communication. In addition, they want digital parenting features that support them in balancing increased use of technology and the need to keep children safe online. 

The survey results show that parents first look to their internet or cell providers for parental control solutions before exploring third-party options. As a result, internet and cell providers that can meet these changing needs have an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition. 

The Shifting Digital Parenting Landscape

Three different parenting styles typically describe how the majority of parents guide their children around digital technology.

  • Rules-Based: Parenting style where managing and monitoring children’s digital activities is the main priority.
  • Values-Based: Parenting style where a child’s online activity is monitored, but there is a greater emphasis on educating and mentoring the child on safe digital practices.
  • Ad Hoc: Parenting style where the rules-based and values-based styles intertwine and overlap. Parents use both rules-based and values-based systems at random intervals.

According to recent user persona research, the rules-based technique dominated the digital parenting outlook in 2020, with 55% practicing this method. At that time, only 25% of parents favored the values-based technique. 

However, all signs indicate there is a shift in these figures for 2021. Parents are embracing values-based approaches in increasing numbers, with 35% choosing the values-based technique compared to a shrinking 30% practicing the rules-based method.

Family Safety Apps – Where Is the Market Headed?

The vast majority of existing Family Safety apps are geared toward rules-based parents. The market faces overcrowding with products that manage and monitor digital activities, and there is very little differentiation between them. Focusing on values-based solutions by providing comprehensive tools built around families’ new digital lifestyles offers space for growth and differentiation.

With the November 2020 release of SafePath 7, Smith Micro debuted several values-based features that promote educating and mentoring children on safe digital practices through rewards and gamification. Not only do these digital parenting features benefit both children and parents, but they increase the value of family safety apps for consumer-facing brands.

The Benefits of App-based Rewards & Gamification

The integration of values-based features into family safety apps appeals to the growing population of values-based parents. It also boosts app engagement and ultimately enhances subscriber lifetime value. Here’s why:

  • Positive Reinforcement Scenarios – Using a family safety app powered by SafePath 7, parents can incentivize their children to complete tasks or chores with internal and external rewards.
  • Development of Parent-Child Partnerships – Transparent digital boundaries paired with positive reinforcement techniques promote active participation and accountability for both parents and children.
  • Increased App Usage & Engagement – With access to values-based features, children and parents are motivated to actively use their family safety app on a frequent basis. Like anything else, this repetition builds a foundation for long-term habits among users.
  • New Revenue Generation Through Partnerships – Values-based features activate novel partnership opportunities with premium content providers. These partners can use the app as a channel to monetize their content in the form of digital rewards.
  • Increased Subscriber “Stickiness” – As app users accumulate digital rewards over time, the likelihood of churn decreases. After all, subscribers don’t like to forfeit what they’ve earned.

SafePath® provides values-based features such as rewards and in-app gamification. In addition, the white-label platform offers best-in-class parental controls, family location services, and driver safety functionality. Interested in learning more? Contact us today to request a personalized SafePath demo.