It is easy to lose sight of how much data influences our lives. Many of the decisions we think we made ourselves actually come to us partially formulated. From the charities we’re asked to support to the products we buy online, there’s always an element of data-led intelligence behind those journeys. The days of the cold lead are gone.
As a society, we’re very comfortable letting data suggest our movies. We even use it to help us select a romantic partner via dating websites. We value the assistance.
Yes, it’s easy to be creeped out by hyper relevant retargeting adverts (the first time at least), but if everything we saw online, on TV or on our smartphones was arbitrarily plucked out of the sky, we’d soon be exhausted by the sheer irrelevance of it all.
it’s easy to be creeped out by hyper relevant retargeting adverts
So when it comes to those big life decisions, there’s a growing trend towards handing over the keys to the people with the data. Be that in health, romance, investing and even parenting.
A recent study of 1,000 UK adults conducted by Xoomworks found that one third of parents would use data to make key parenting decisions.
The parents said they’d use productivity data for a variety of parenting applications, from using voice analytics to improve speech development to using wearable tech to keep their kids fit and healthy.
10 per cent of parents said they’d also use demographic data to help them select their children’s friends. Presumably using crime stats by area would be a good way to prevent your child visiting friends in crime hotspots, but it could never replace common sense parenting. And there are big questions around ethics and effectiveness in this regard.
But the key point is that parents are open to it.
As a society, we’re very comfortable letting data suggest our movies. We even use it to help us select a romantic partner via dating websites. We value the assistance
The Xoomworks study revealed that parents most valued better problem-solving ability as an output from using data. 22 per cent wanted better speech and would consider using voice analytics – a marketing tool typically used to measure the mood, sentiment and preferences of a customer – to improve how their children spoke.
Improved hand-eye coordination, fitness, capacity for empathy were also ranked as desirable outcomes from the use of data. We can already do all of these things with data, but normally in an experimental setting with willing and interested adults.
So should parents feel weird about experimenting in this way on their kids?
Jon Boggiano, a 37-year-old entrepreneur and dad of three from Charlotte, North Carolina, doesn’t. He’s very comfortable employing data to help his “data driven” family achieve their goals.
“My younger two children have used wearable speech tracking devices for the past year. The devices track the amount of words the child hears, prompting adults to engage more with children where necessary.
“All of my children wear Fitbits. It is a fun game for the family and our kids are outside a lot. They routinely beat me on steps and it is also interesting to see the periods where they have many fewer steps. For our son he usually fidgets more when he has had less time to spend being active.
“Third, we’ve used all sorts of analytic services like adaptive maths programs to improve academic performance.
“I have no ethical reservations really.”
We’re increasingly more open to using data to optimise business processes. It lets us challenge assumptions and make smart decisions. So why not use it for parenting?