A recent Financial Mail Redzone digitised event, moderated by chief creative officer at TILT, Arye Kellman, revealed the results of a ViacomCBS study dubbed “Are we there yet: Today’s Parents, Tomorrow’s Kids”. The study found that while parenting styles have changed over the years, children’s lives continue to be dominated by authority figures and parents still place high expectations on their children. What has changed significantly is the nature of the relationship between parents and their children.

Senior director of research and insights at ViacomCBS Networks Africa, Giuliana Dias, explained that the study, which was based on more than 8,000 interviews with parents in 16 countries - including SA - aimed to establish how children are being raised today and how this affects the brands wanting to connect with them.

The study revealed key tensions parents face in raising their children: balancing fostering independence with the need to keep their children safe, ensuring children understand the world they are growing up in versus sheltering them from the real world in order to allow them to enjoy their childhood, formal learning versus play, balancing school with lessons from life and restricting screen time versus using screen time as a reward for good behaviour.

Where parenting has changed is that today’s parents typically tell their children they love them more frequently and spend more time playing with them. Today’s parents have a more open and flexible approach to rules and are more likely to explain the reason behind rules.

The result is that today’s children have a completely different relationship with their parents than previous generations had with theirs and are getting more guidance from their parents on how to navigate the world. Parents and their children now have a warmer, stronger and more empathetic relationship than those of previous generations. Children are heard more than ever, and the older they get the larger their role and influence on household decision making and purchase behaviour.

What this means for brands, said Dias, is that they need to focus on children and their parents simultaneously, with content that they can share. At the same time brands should support conversations around emotional wellbeing. “Don’t underestimate the power of kids’ voices,” she said.

She said brands need to appeal to children’s aspirations while at the same time tapping into the tensions felt by families. Content should celebrate parents and reflect their role authentically rather than oversimplify it.  At the same time, content should reflect the ups and downs of family life and help families understand and navigate the real world.

Parenting coach and marketing director at Little Medical School SA, Ayanda Tetyana, said one of the most important aspects of parenting today is empowering children to be independent, as opposed to helicopter-parenting them. “When you allow children to have a voice in the home you are empowering them for life,” she said.

More than ever before, she added, parents have to be open-minded and accept that they don’t know everything. At the same time they need to modify their parenting style depending on the unique character of each child.

The big take-out:

Today’s children are having a growing influence on household purchase behaviour.


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