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The Download on the Digital Dad

Courtesy Weldon Owen

My dad was an analog dad. Our family vacations were recorded using a video camera the size of a Smart car. His cell phone was mounted between the front seats of a Ford Bronco. He bought my brother and me a Commodore 64. We marveled at the colorful, dime-size pixels.

            What a difference a Gates and a Jobs make. I record my kids using a wallet-size Flip video camera. My cell phone fits in my front pocket. My laptop has a clarity equal to my bedroom window. I am a digital dad, and we digital dads are a force to be reckoned with. Yahoo! recently released research about the digital dad based on a survey that polled 2,325 men (including 1,324 fathers) in the United States. For starters, this guy is way involved. Fifty-one percent are responsible for grocery shopping; 41 percent do the laundry. So imagine how Dad feels when he’s browsing the 36 different types of Tide at Safeway. Let me tell you: It’s pure ecstasy.

            “During the economic downturn, more men than women have been laid off,” says Yahoo! director of research Edwin Wong, who was downsized from a startup company when his son was 9 months old. “As a result, guys are taking on more responsibility at home.” Add to that a changing concept of what a good parent is. “‘My dad was never around’ was something we heard from a lot of guys,” adds Wong.

            But a very familiar dude exists under all the modern gadgets and accessories. The survey reports that dads are more likely than moms to buy expensive premium products. “A mom will look at many different diapers before choosing one,” says Wong. “And moms get other moms’ input before buying.” By comparison, he says: “Men make snap decisions. Price is not a factor.”

            All the Wi-Fi in the world can’t subdue evolution. More than a million years ago, our old-school hominid Homo erectus established small groups of families that lived together. The women were the gatherers, collecting food and materials for survival. Men were hunters, heading into the tundra, their eyes singularly focused on their prey. That dynamic has evolved into women gathering and sharing information about babysitters they like and baby wipes they don’t. (On Parenting’s Facebook page, the question “What’s your best tantrum stopper?” resulted in 86 comments. Here’s a standout: “Tom and Jerry or The Flintstones.”)

            Meanwhile, men are still singularly focused and can’t break stride to ask for help. (Here’s one phrase you never heard back in the Pleistocene era: “Excuse me, sir, did you see which way the mammoth went?”)

            Time hasn’t really changed men, which is great news because we’ve had our hearts in the right place all along. I asked Wong why the digital dad buys premium brands. “He equates expensive with best for the family,” he explains. Our shopping methods may be flawed, but the involved, thoughtful man who buys Pampers MegaSuperUltraÜber Pull-ups is the guy you want by your side.