A Pandemic Silver Lining: Remote Learning and Increased Intergenerational Technology Guidance Within Lower-Income Families

Bianca C. Reisdorf, Vikki S. Katz


The COVID-19 pandemic acted as an accelerant in many aspects of social life, speeding up existing social trends rather than fostering entirely new behaviors. This was particularly evident in relation to technology use. We examine intergenerational technology guidance—how parents help children, and how children help parents—within lower-income families one year into the pandemic. We draw on nationally representative, cross-sectional surveys of lower-income U.S. parents with school-age children in 2015 and 2021 to compare families’ pandemic experiences to an earlier point in time. We ask whether sociodemographic patterns of intergenerational technology guidance changed between 2015 and 2021 and identify factors that might explain these changes. Logistic regressions show that intergenerational technology guidance increased within these families—but also, that sociodemographic differences in parental technology guidance evident in 2015 had largely fell away by 2021. This suggests a “silver lining” of the pandemic period: a key form of digital inequality among lower-income U.S. parents was much less pronounced by 2021. Our findings have important implications for policy and practice in the aftermath of pandemic remote learning.


digital inequalities, intergenerational technology guidance, lower-income families, surveys, COVID-19 pandemic

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