Family Life Now and Then :: Parenting the ’90s Way Versus Today

Disclosure :: The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital has sponsored this post from Lisa Phillips, MSW, LMSW, Parent Educator with some insight on the role technology plays in parenting in the 90s versus today. 

Family Life Now and Then :: Parenting the 90s Way Versus Today  

Recently I came across an article in a Children’s Hospital publication entitled “Family Life in the ‘90s,” published in 1995. In it, The Parenting Center staff discussed the stressors parents faced, including juggling work and family, and finding that ever elusive “quality” time with children when schedules are tight. At first I thought, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Many of the suggestions given in the article are still relevant:  encouraging children to do chores; doing tasks such as getting clothes, homework, and school lunches ready the night before; and trying to spend even just a few minutes every day alone with each child (while also squeezing in time for self and spouse).  Another constant seems to be concerns around childcare, which was mentioned in the 1995 article as the number one stressor for working parents. A national 2015 study from the Pew Research Center found that in families where both parents work full-time, 67 percent reported that finding affordable, high-quality day care was difficult. Certainly today’s New Orleans parents would not be surprised by these results.

I began to wonder, though, what might be different about parenting in 2018

While public awareness campaigns in recent years have shaped some parenting practices (Back to Sleep for infants, and an emphasis on car seat and booster seat use come to mind), technology may be the biggest divide between now and then. The ‘90s Parenting today and technology - what's changed from the 90sushered in the internet age, but listening patiently to that distinctive dial-up tone seems like a lifetime ago. Now, for families with access to technology (and there is still a socioeconomic digital divide), the ability to order diapers online at midnight and then have them magically appear at the front door two days later might help reduce the “time crunch” created by the demands of daily life. Also being able to find information and online support around parenting concerns and family issues undoubtedly can help reduce feelings of social isolation.

But there is a downside to all that convenience and potential for support

Being constantly accessible to employers may give some people the flexibility to work from home and spend more time with their children, but that may also mean we are never “off the clock,” making it harder to be really present in our relationships. Having 24-hour access to the news cycle may help us feel well-informed, but also anxious about the state of the world, at home and abroad. Watching others’ lives as presented on Facebook and Instagram may create some discontent with our own. A ‘90s parent may have set limits on how much time a child spent watching television and playing video games. But many parents today wrestle with how to help children and teens use the educational resources and social connections a phone or iPad provides, while cultivating plenty of real-life experiences and interactions. Striking such a balance is tough when the technology is always readily available and accessible, and is often a source of stress for many families. Technology is certainly not going away, nor would we want it to, so we will all have to find a way to integrate it with work, family life and our children’s best interest.

If you are a child of the ‘90s (or earlier), what are some of your observations of the differences and similarities between parenting now and then? Please share in the comments section below.

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About Lisa Phillips 

Lisa Phillips, MSW, LMSW is a Parent Educator at The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital. She is a mom of two teens trying to find a healthy balance with their use of cell phones and social media.


  1. I raised my kids in the late 90’s, and now watching my kids raise my grandchildren there is definitely a difference. Keeping the kids entertained back then was much more difficult. It required toys and attention and time. Now parents will buy themselves time by using technology. It definitely creates a demanding attitude in the kids (at least in my grandkids).

  2. I’m a kid of the 90’s, back then the world seemed more peaceful. Trust was easier to give and receive. Parenting my children in this age now seems more daunting because of the information overload, inability to trust other adults with your child and No Saturday morning cartoons to look forward to (if for nothing else, a time stamp).


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