Digital childhoods

Adapted parental roles and childhood development

Children may spend more time in online environments that can transform their educational and creative experiences, but equally have increased capacity to captivate and shape their worldview in potentially problematic ways.

How the scenario could unfold

In this scenario, we propose the continuation of a trend toward the ubiquity of technology in people’s lives. With the growth of AI and IoT, we may see digital and connected spaces integrated with most facets of life from childhood to old age. 

These technologies bring a huge new array of potential experiences to people, influencing how people parent their children. Technology may connect or diminish their relationship. It may support or contradict parenting values or principles and it may radically influence the way children engage with creativity and education.

We consider that digital services providers become ever more powerful through the advancement of virtual reality, behavioural economics, the application of psychological principles and the ever expanding plethora of available data about people. These may be the digital environments in which children spend their time.

In a negative light, these experiences may be captivating, and they may influence their behaviour or expose them to harmful ethical positions. While these digital environments may also have huge opportunities, they could well entail diminished parent  involvement, forcing us to consider how services may emerge that respond to the new parent-child dynamic.

We consider the significance of this context from the perspective of a future character we created based on our research with real people.

What might that mean for Thomas?

Thomas’ relationship with work is about dedication. He believes that you get what you give and he wants to get the maximum. We explore how services may evolve around people’s new relationship with work.

I see little kids walking around glued to their iPhones and I’m afraid my baby is going to be one of them.

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Enhanced relationships

People may expand their freedoms to live how they like and subsequently have the types of relationships they like in a more transient but online world. New arrangements of relationship may be initiated, supported, or managed by AI and usher in even more radical concepts of relationships.


Sidelined and connected communities

The elderly are sidelined but new tools could help connect them in communities and fight for a place in society.

Layla identifies herself first as a mother, but still values the other elements of her identity and worries about losing some of that. She is a new mum who prefers to live in a calm neighbourhood. She works part-time because she wants to spend most of her time with her little girl. Before she had her baby she was less present and in the moment, always getting lost in her phone and now she is already concerned about how entwined her child’s life is with digital services and how that might influence their relationship. 

Happiness, for Layla, is about finding stability at home. She wants to control her environment and ensure outside forces can’t damage what she has and she worries about having enough money to protect and provide for her child. 

Her goals

Layla’s goals are to get a small role in the local community to avoid getting disconnected from everything although her priority is always to have more time with her family. She wants to protect her child and help them grow up with clear and strong values.

For people like Layla, their number one relationship is with their children and their job in that relationship is to love and protect.

Explorations in ‘Digital childhoods’

We explore the future in this scene by looking for potential points of traction between this scenario of digital childhood and the needs of someone like Layla. These explorations are outlines of services that act as emerging spaces for solutions or as spaces to explore the problems and provocations elicited by the services.

Find out how we ‘created the framework for future thinking’.
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Happy family

Happy family is a tool designed for your family that can track and censor every member’s digital activity and enhance digital safety and transparency.
By creating a shared account where every member connects its profiles and devices, Happy family tracks what types of content are influencing your children —and checks if it is in-keeping with your ‘family’ worldview and values.
It can also censor and adapt media and build in restrictions depending on the time and type of content for each child.

Team: The Lab

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Kinderpendent helps you understand how balanced your child’s online exposure is to challenging social topics and perspectives and manages that exposure through intelligent balancing and censorship tools and offers advice and support for parents and children while navigating big topics.

Find out how we ‘Conducted lab explorations’.
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Empath is a VR educational tool designed to build tolerance and empathy by helping children understand some of the inaccuracies they hold in their prejudice.
By collecting analysis of social division or conflicts in the area around a school, it helps to direct the narrative children are shown through a customised selection of VR experiences. These experiences show children a new perspective about a true and relatable, contemporary story and offer students and teachers poignant follow-up questions to help children understand the relevance of the stories to their worldview.
The data links to the schools behaviour records to feed back impact data to local authorities and government policy creators.

Team: The Lab

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Empath assesses and builds student’s social intelligence and empathy for other people through in-school, personalised, immersive story-telling.

Find out how we ‘Crafted future service concepts’.
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Playground offers a digitally augmented realworld playtime to enhance and encourage active imagination and defend a space for play in a cluttered world.

With Playground, children can build and draw in the real world with virtual tools and commands and share their playground with specific friends, so they can collaborate in real-time and create something new together. Kids can interact with insects, see the root systems of trees, create their own vehicles, climb up pyramids and share all their experiences with their parents and friends afterwards.

Playground offers a safe environment with a high level of protection from all other companies and, most importantly, gets your kids active!

Team: The Lab

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Service visions


Portal allows you to experience other people’s life experiences through VR and the people who live the experience for you.


YaYa is your family’s digital network service that, connected to wearables and smart systems from your day to day life, helps parents get insights into their children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

YaYa uses data collected from children’s gadgets and wearables, along with inputs from parents, so it can become more personalised and set playful tasks and conversation starters that encourage mentally healthier habits and behaviour. The children earn ‘YaYa points’, which can be used to make real life purchases as a way to incentivise engagement.

Astha Johri
Kyle Macdonald
Shanshan Liu
Nayoon Lee
JIna Kim


Family Jar

FamilyJar responds to the insight that families do not share digital experiences. This means m that children spending their time in digital spaces become isolated from their families. Family Jar is a safe cloud environment where each family member can share things like a favourite song, an interesting news article or a photo from an amazing meal out.

FamilyJar encourages sharing between family members to produce a curated “Family Feed” that promotes positive inter-family relationships.

Emilia D’Orazio
Hyojin Bae
Yueh Ling (Irene)
Yushun Zhai



Integro is a service built to help gamers improve in-game and out of game well-being, based on a new rewards system. The service is connected to user wearables and game accounts that analyses and tracks the three most important variables for teenage development: sleep, physical activity, and social interaction. This data gives a ‘balance score’ based on personal optimisation across these variables. When the ‘balance score’ is too low, game play is paused. When it is good, users receive in-game or out-of-game rewards and are then connected to recommended activities and other Integro users.

Agata Juszkiewicz
Shuning Wang
Yi Long
Yuxin Lu

Emerging topics

In these scenarios, we propose a range of ways that parent-child relationships could change. There may be opportunities to expand how children explore the world and equally some interesting challenges about how children can be protected and kept healthy in increasingly online worlds.

We see potential services that make the most of VR either in educational or playtime settings that can be used to create previously unimaginable experiences. These could open children up to creativity in new collaborative environments, but raise questions about the extent to which play should be designed at all i.e. to what extent does supporting imagination weaken it? Alternatively, the technology could be used to build new types of education, like for empathy (in the exploration ‘Empath’), which could build community and tolerance in the world, but raises questions about validity and control of the values embedded within the services.

We propose a context where technology becomes even more integrated and present in children’s lives, which when considered alongside the increasing captological power of governments and commercial organisations, raises fears about the safety of unaccompanied children in online worlds and creates a social distance in the parent-child dynamic. With this problem in mind, we may see services emerge that seek to allow parents into a child’s online world. This could be by creating online spaces for them to share to prevent their isolation or by giving them a window onto what the child is exposed to and potentially even shaping that content. Questions emerge about what is safe for children and what is an intrusion into their personal space? If online environments are gaining power over their young users, how much power should parents be given? 

With a particular focus on the captivating nature of the games industry, we may see other services evolve to protect children that intervene without engaging the parent by using gaming methodologies to promote healthier online and offline habits and reduce addiction. These services represent an industry listening to a demand to be more responsible. 

These explorations portray a landscape of services that may emerge to manage the digitisation of children’s lives by supporting parenting or the parent-child relationship in different ways.

Related to ‘Digital Childhoods’



Kinderpendent helps you understand how balanced your child’s online exposure is to challenging social topics and perspectives and manages that exposure through intelligent balancing and censorship tools and offers advice and support for parents and children while navigating big topics.

Proposition Types

Relationship Facilitators

Creating and facilitating relationships through enhanced empathy and compatibility.

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