Rhetorical Analysis of Eliana Dockterman’s the digital parent trap .

How Eliana Dockterman builds an argument to persuade her audience that there are benefits to early exposure to technology.

In her response to the extreme scepticism among parents regarding their kids’ early exposure to technology, Eliana Dockterman presents a multifaceted argument. Through her argument, she tries  to dispel the confusion and misunderstandings surrounding technology and its use for education and training of adolescents. Eliana effectively builds her argument based on facts and stats to highlight the psychological barriers related to adoption of technology for kids’ education.

Eliana starts off with how the new generation of kids is tech savvier compared to previous generations. She refers to stats and data highlighting the growing usage of technology among kids and how instead of causing any kind of suffering or moral decline, it is instead a sign of progress. Right at the outset, she sets a strong foundation for her argument proposing the need for change in parents’ mindset. They must stop thinking that technology causes only loss of focus and must not replace traditional learning. Referring to the stats on growing adoption of technology, Eliana highlights how the world has advanced a lot and dependence of schools and students on technology has grown. Schools are planning to adopt more technology which shows the role it can play in facilitating modern education. In this way, while she challenges the assumption that technology for basic education can be harmful, she also builds the background to persuade her audience that embracing technology is neither difficult nor disadvantageous. It becomes clear from her initial words that the acceptance of technology in the academic world is already high.

The speaker mainly uses ethos and logos to persuade her audience and relies mainly on facts to deliver her point. However, at points she also makes use of pathos to grow the impact of her words. Her initial words make it clear that she means to establish the potential of technology as a game changer and as a facilitator in terms of adolescent education. She spells out the dilemma parents and kids are faced with as she moves on. On the one hand, kids and schools may be eager to make technology an integral part of modern education, research shows that a large number of parents are still unwilling to be a part of this change. They see it as an addiction and spend money to get their kids rid of their gadgets and to reduce the time they spend with technology.

Her use of imagery makes the picture even interesting and engaging. A kid who likes technology and has grown up with it from home to school is being advised by parents and paid counsellors to spend as less time with his gadgets as possible. In her speech, she refers to the average American family which still does not understand the value of technology as a tool for education and doubts its potential thinking it distracts kids who should spend their time among books. When she says, “So who’s right—the mom trying to protect her kids from the perils of new technology or the dad who’s coaching his kids to embrace it?”,  she is referring to the common picture in the US society. Eliana’s argument is strengthened by her use of real world stats and data which shows that while technological change is happening at very fast pace, not all are ready to embrace it. The problem as per her argument is that people’s awareness of technology and its educational use is limited. They are more aware of its perils and less of how it can facilitate their child’s growth and learning. In this way, Eliana also gets to subtly hint at the main reason behind the parents’ scepticism which is that their traditional mindset does not allow them to search farther than the most convenient answers. Most parents find it convenient to blame technology. However, apart from highlighting their ignorance, Eliana uses a compare and contrast approach to weigh out the advantages that  technology can potentially deliver. She compares the older studies that blame technology and on screen violence with the latest to show how things are changing and why people should approach technology from a new angle. The speaker’s selection of words is meant to stress upon the relationship between society and technology. In terms of kids’ education too, things only get easier with the help of technology. It is an important area where parents should choose carefully and not blindly.

To add crediblity to her speech, she cites  statistics based on research carried out by reputed institutions like MIT. Eliana’s speech stresses upon balancing the two sides of this picture. On the one side is the traditional viewpoint that exposure to technology exposure at a tender age has only negative effects. On the other is the modern viewpoint that technology drives engagement and faster learning and that social media and games can be used to create positive learning experiences. She lays out during her speech and towards the end too that the social, educational and job environments are changing fast and one should be prepared for these changes. While the scepticism of parents and their concerns are valid to an extent, tech fluency is something that will help them throughout their lives. All the while, she weighs both sides of the argument to show how the traditional mindset is losing ground before the modern.


In her speech Eliana Dockterman makes use all the three elements – Ethos, Pathos and Logos to persuade her audience and for a stronger argument. For ethos or to add ethical appeals to her speech she refers to reputed sources like research by MIT and others. Her use of real world stats also adds credibility to her speech.

Pathos or emotional element is also there in Eliana’s speech. She outlines the common picture in the US society where a generation that has grown up with technology and learnt to live day and night with it, is being deprived of a precious resource on the basis of outdated research and irrelevant causes. When she says, “There’s also a fundamental aversion to sitting kids in front of screens, thanks to decades of studies proving that watching too much TV can lead to obesity, violence and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder”, she is indicating towards the pathetic confusions prevalent in the US society. Parents are profoundly mistaken in their view of technology.

Eliana’s speech is also backed by sound logic. She compares the past with the present and the future and how the fast changing environment requires people to get ready to embrace technology in all walks of life including education. The way the job environment has changed proves her point that if kids are not prepared today, tomorrow they might miss the most important opportunities in life. To make her logic stronger she compares and contrasts the traditional picture with the modern while outlining the advantages of modern technology.

  • Sources:
  • Adapted from Eliana Dockterman, “The Digital Parent Trap.” ©2013 by
    Time Inc. Originally published August 19, 2013.

Abhijeet Pratap

I have studied Marketing and English Literature and like to write on topics in Business management, Marketing, literature, latest technologies and other areas. I also like to spend my time learning coding.