What does it mean to be a parent today? And how has parenting changed since Millennials’ moms and dads were the ones in charge? These are questions Nickelodeon International sought answers to in a March/April 2013 survey of parents in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy. The study’s main objectives were to understand how parents see their role nowadays, pinpoint the similarities and differences from when today’s moms and dads were kids, and identify new parental challenges. The end goal is to help create and position new TV shows that are relevant to kids and parents. Here are key findings from the study:

Parents believe strongly that parenting has changed for the better since they were kids. 

  • 56% said the changes in parenting have been mainly positive
  • Parents in Spain and Italy see the changes are more positive, while those in France had more negative feelings

More open communication is the best thing about being a parent today. The next best things are more activities for kids to participate in and technology that helps parents and kids keep in touch.

  • On the subject of communication, close to half say being able to talk more freely with their children is the best thing; 4 in 10 appreciate that fewer areas are considered taboo
  • A third say the best thing is that there are more activities for kids to participate in
  • A third like that technology helps them keep in touch with their kids

Being able to communicate better with their kids is also one of the main ways parents see parenting as different from when they were kids. (This may provide Nickelodeon an opportunity to encourage conversation by launching shows about sensitive topics.) 

  • Nearly 8 in 10 agree that nowadays there is more communication with children about formerly taboo topics
  • Other ways parents perceive their role as different from when they were kids: there are more single parents and more shared custody, both parents work these days, and society now focuses on material things more than family values

For most parents, the biggest changes for kids today are increased access to technology, education, and information. Parents have conflicted feelings about the positives and negatives resulting from this access.

  • Over 90% of parents agree that kids are drawn to technology, constantly plugged in
  • Over 8 in 10 agree that children have easier access to education and information today
  • Nearly 80% believe the world is a more dangerous place than when they were kids
  • Almost 7 in 10 think children have more freedom to decide their futures, but nearly two-thirds agree that kids are under more pressure and are more competitive today

Virtually all parents surveyed see parenting today to be equally or more challenging than it was for their parents. 

  • Just over half say parenthood is just as challenging today, while 45% believe it’s more challenging than when they were kids
  • Of those who say it’s more challenging, their biggest concern is that kids are exposed to adult topics on TV and the internet
  • Other perceived current challenges of parenting: society is less safe, kids grow up too quickly, and there are different pressures in society today

Getting a good job and education are parents’ top practical concerns for their kids. When it comes to emotional worries, parents are concerned about the dangers of society and fear their kids are growing up too fast. 

  • Parental concerns vary by country – those in the UK worry more about their kids’ childhoods disappearing too quickly and less about their ability to find good jobs, while education is top-of-mind in Spain and Germany

When faced with parenting challenges, moms and dads turn to those closest to them – family and friends. They also turn to TV shows, but to a lesser degree.

  • Nearly 6 in 10 turn to family, close to 4 in 10 turn to friends, and over a third look to other parents as parenting resources
  • Almost a quarter use TV shows as a resource
  • 25-30% turn to books, the internet, teachers, and healthcare professionals for parenting advice

Most parents aren’t complaining about a lack of information about parenting – but not all believe that what’s available is useful.

  • 44% of parents say there’s too much information about parenting, while 40% say the amount is just about right
  • However, only 46% say that information is useful to them
  • Nearly 40% say it’s neither useful nor not useful