Parenting apps and the depoliticisation of the parent

Stefan Ramaekers, Naomi Hodgson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In educational research, digital technology has received attention, and in early childhood studies this has largely focussed, understandably, on children. Our concern here is with the figure of the parent and on a specific digital technology - apps designed for parents. While apps can be seen as digital extension of existing information and advice that has proliferated in the turn to parenting, and exhibits many of the characteristics of the parenting culture - for example, positioning parents as in need of education, drawing predominantly from developmental psychology and neuroscience - the particular affordances of apps draw attention to a more profound shift in how we understand what is means to raise children today, particularity if we reassert the representational - political, pedagogical - dimension of the figure of the parent. This article considers the implications of parenting apps for the position of the parent in the parent-child relationship. Key focuses in the critical sociological literature on the 'parenting culture' and the increasing digitisation of our daily lives are summarised to show how parenting apps can be seen as an extension of the instrumentalisation, scientisation, and psychologisation identified therein. A pedagogical-philosophical register is introduced, however, informed by Stanley Cavell's account of initiation in forms of life and Klaus Mollenhauer's account of upbringing, that brings out the political aspect of the figure of the parent, as a representative figure situated between child and world. With reference to a selection of apps aimed at the period from pregnancy to three years old, we illustrate how, while sharing similarities with the existing sources of information and advice for parents, parenting apps are distinctive due to the personalisation, visualisation, and notion of community they offer. Hence, what appears as a politicisation of parents through a sociological lens is seen as a depoliticisation of parents through a pedagogical-philosophical lens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-124
Number of pages18
JournalFamilies, Relationships and Societies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • upbringing
  • parenting apps
  • community
  • depoliticisation
  • pedagogical representation
  • personalisation
  • visualisation


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