Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic (2020–2021) resulted in isolation due to social distancing rules and lockdowns, during which technology was used to enable families and friends to maintain contact. Despite loneliness being high in parents, little is known about which parents are more likely to experience loneliness and strategies to support them. Method: This mixed-methods study examines which parents were lonely during the pandemic and how digital technologies were used to reduce loneliness and social isolation. Data were collected during the first UK lockdown from May to July 2020 via an online survey (N = 145) and follow-up interviews (n = 13). Results: Loneliness reported during lockdown was greater than retrospective reporting of loneliness for all respondents, but it was higher in single parents, those caring for children with specific needs, and those with lower household incomes before and during lockdown. Parents rapidly adapted to and experimented with using technology for social connection during the lockdown, which helped to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Video calling was found to be useful for making connections and enhancing social presence, but parents also experienced anxieties and difficulties with its use. There were mixed views about technology use; some were keen to continue using technology for socializing after the lockdown ended, but for others, it was only a temporary measure. Conclusion: Although technology was invaluable during the pandemic, it was not a panacea, and the way parents used it was influenced by their approach to technology and existing social behaviors and networks.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Cite as

Nowland, R., McNally, L. & Gregory, P. 2024, 'Parents' use of digital technology for social connection during the COVID-19 pandemic: a mixed-methods study', Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1111/sjop.12998

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 08 February 2024
Was this page helpful?