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Picture: UNSPLASH/DEVIN AVERY
Picture: UNSPLASH/DEVIN AVERY

Over the past decades, the world has witnessed the evolution of parenting philosophies across the globe as new generations navigate a myriad tensions and attempt to parent their children differently to previous generations. Phrases such as helicopter, lawnmower, tiger, free-range parenting have all emerged as new predominant terms to describe parenting styles. Parents have increased the amount of time, attention and money they put into raising children, becoming more protective and interfering, than ever before.

After connecting with more than 1.8-million children, teens, young adults and adults through consumer insights, covering 79 countries globally, from Sweden to SA and Argentina to Australia, ViacomCBS has gleaned insights into the latest developments in New-Age parenting styles and the evolving dynamics between parents and children.

The study dubbed ViacomCBS’s Are We There Yet: Today’s Parents, Tomorrow’s Children reflects that while parenting styles have changed over the years, the core of parenting has not. Children’s lives today are still dominated by authority figures and parents still place high expectations on them. What has changed significantly over the years is the nature of the relationship between parents and their children.  

In the past decades, the word parent has shifted from being a noun to a verb. Previously, when one had kids, they were defined by the simple act of being a parent. Nowadays, ‘parent’ has become a verb: rather than focusing on what one is, it has become about what one does. Parenting is now viewed as a role that needs consistent work with a hands-on approach.

Parents are becoming more involved and conscious in their style, often choosing to instil flexibility and independence in their children. Though parents still think it’s incredibly important to set rules and boundaries, there’s a more open, flexible approach to rules. More than half of parents in the study globally said they were more likely than their own parents to take the time to explain the reasons behind their rules to their children.

'Are We There Yet: Today’s Parents, Tomorrow’s Children'. Picture: SUPPLIED/VIACOMCBS
'Are We There Yet: Today’s Parents, Tomorrow’s Children'. Picture: SUPPLIED/VIACOMCBS

Parents themselves also recognise that sometimes it’s OK to bend or break the rules to get things done. Parents in the study say they are happier being more fluid with their approach than in the past.

Our research shows that 97% of parents surveyed in SA believe that their children are the most important things in their lives. This is universally recognised, with more than nine in 10 parents in all of the countries surveyed agreeing with this sentiment.  

My own household comprises two teenagers and I believe what we are seeing right now is that kids have become central in their parents’ lives. Family life revolves around children and they are the ones taking priority in their parents’ lives. The study aimed to explore what this means for brands and content makers.

These insights present an opportunity to tap into the bond that children and parents have and target both groups at the same time. Similarly, in the content space, there are opportunities for brands to create content that can be enjoyed by both children and parents together. More broadly, this is a space that allows for families to spend more time together. So why not be the brand known for creating experiences that help parents and their children spend more time together? 

To make an impact on the next generation effectively, brands need to start looking at ways of meeting their needs. The ViacomCBS-led study shows that the next generation is different, powerful and influential, therefore brands need to apply a new and disruptive way of thinking.  

Through showcasing an in-depth understanding of parents and their children’s needs, aspirations and values, brands can appeal to them effectively. Over the years, some brands have achieved this successfully, while others completely missed the mark.  

Today’s children are growing up in a world where parents are worried about a range of factors including their children’s futures, mental health, bullying, physical health and the growing impact of social media. These worries lead to a series of tensions, which all have an effect on families and children’s upbringing.    

For example, parents want their children to be independent without compromising their safety, which often leads to a proliferation of different schools of thinking around how to achieve this balancing act. The question becomes whether to expose children to the real world and prepare them for adult life, or shelter them so they can enjoy their childhood. In SA, most parents in the study believe children should understand the real world they’re growing up in, as they cannot be shielded from everything — another great example of the balancing act parents are faced with daily.  

For parents faced with these constant tensions, it is essential that the brands they support understand their plight and reflect it in their offerings. Brands and content makers should reflect the ups and downs of today’s families — it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.  

The VCNA study also reveals that brands get it wrong in children’s content by portraying parents incorrectly or by completely excluding them — which fails to reflect the reality we are seeing at home between children and their parents.

VCNA’s intent is for brands to reflect the role of parents in content in a more real and accurate way by tapping into the challenges and tensions they experience in today’s world, as well as celebrate them and give reassurance that they’re doing a great job.

After all, being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. A significant portion of parents in the study (88%) of parents from both low- and high-income groups agree that being a parent is one of the most challenging things one can do.  

At the heart of ViacomCBS is the constant dynamic of innovation, reimagining and reinventing, through world-class and insightful research that supports a better understanding of audiences at each stage of their lives.

As we explore the changing landscape in modern parenting in our latest research, may brands be empowered to package content that is an accurate depiction of the current landscape to their audiences. We believe that research is an inspiration that should be used as the foundation for any strategy.

ViacomCBS Networks Africa prides itself on having the insights that can help to equip businesses with the knowledge needed to support marketing strategies.

Our Nickelodeon content and marketing strategies have been inspired by the research we conduct to ensure as a channel we become more accurate in depicting current parenting dynamics and ideologies and we encourage all brands should do the same for this influential market segment.

Join the FM Redzone, Arye Kellman and Giuliana Dias on February 2 for more insights into the changing role of parents.

Register here >>>


This article was paid for by ViacomCBS.

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