The Best Opportunities for Technology to Positively Impact Parenting

How might technology make parenting easier in the future? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Rob Ennals, Former Google Product Manager, Parent of an 18 month old, on Quora:

One way to predict how technology might make parenting easier in the future is to look at the ways that technology has already helped with the biggest parenting pain points, and then imagine how those trends might continue:

  • Helping a baby fall asleep - Today we have various devices that help babies fall asleep. We have rocking machines, swings, white noise devices, swaddlers, and other such things. It seems reasonable to assume that these products will get better over time. In the long term, I can imagine that most of the task of rocking a baby to sleep will be delegated to machines.
  • Feeding a baby milk - Today technologies like breast pumps, formula milk, breast-feeding pillows, and fancy bottles have made feeding a baby easier. It seems reasonable to expect that all of these things will get better over time, particularly for night feeds, which are very hard on parents. I can imagine that we’ll eventually be able to delegate most of the task of night feeds to machines that offer a baby a bottle when it wakes up hungry.
  • Diaper changes - Modern diapers are wonders compared to what came before, with relatively few leaks, and largely removing the need to change a diaper just for urine. I’d expect future diapers to essentially solve the diaper leak problem, and further restrict how far across the baby’s body feces spread, making diaper changes significantly faster, easier, and more sanitary. I’d also expect future changing tables to reduce the problem of babies getting their hands into the wrong places.
  • Entertainment/Stimulation - We’ve seen a steady trend for toys to do more to entertain a child by themselves, allowing a child to get the mental stimulation they need with less direct intervention by a parent, and less risk of hurting themselves if not sufficiently watched. I expect that parents will always want to play with their children, but better toys will allow it to be less all encompassing, and reduce the need to be directly watching your kid every moment. I’d expect particular growth in toys that help socialize kids and help their emotional development.
  • Illness - Modern medicine has dramatically reduced the problem of childhood illness. I’d expect this trend to continue.
  • Daycare - Daycare centers have made it practical for more parents to return to work, but still have problems of unaffordability, child sickness, and less direct attention than nannies or stay at home parents. I’d expect improvements in health technology to reduce the sickness problem and improvements in entertainment/stimulation technology to allow lower staff/child ratios while preserving the quality of care, thus allowing costs to be reduced.
  • Knowing what a baby wants - We are starting to see the emergence of sensor technology that help parents understand the state of their baby. I’d expect this trend to continue, leading to technologies that can tell parents what their baby is likely upset about.

This list is by no means an exhaustive list of all the things that make parenting hard. In particular I’ve focused on the challenges of being the parent of a young child, and the challenges of being the parent of an older child are different.

As with most parenting changes in the past (e.g. mothers going to work), I’d expect many of the future parenting changes to initially face strong social resistance and fear-mongering about potential effects on children before eventually being accepted as good for both parents and children.

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