What does friendship mean to children and their parents? Nickelodeon International asked this question as part of a recent study, “Who Are Your Best Friends?”

The project was based on a 10-minute online survey of parents of kids 6 to 12 across 10 countries/regions: the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Southeast Asia, and Russia. Here are the key findings:

Millennial kids are often seen as having many friends but no one very close. In reality, however, their social circles aren’t that big – and most have at least a few really good friends.

  • Millennial kids have 13 friends on average – 3 of whom they consider to be best friends
  • A third have smaller social circles of 1 to 5 friends
  • Kids average 3 “best friends” – though a relatively high proportion report not having a best friend (16%)
  • They average 2 groups of friends
  • Italian kids have the biggest social circles (averaging 21 friends) and are most likely to count acquaintances as friends

Kids most commonly describe their friends as funny, kind, reliable, and supportive.

  • Nearly 7 in 10 say their friends are funny; 6 in 10 say they’re kind
  • 45% describe their friends as reliable or supportive
  • Shared sense of humor, similar interests, and trustworthiness are the top characteristics of a “best friend”
  • Good looks and popularity don’t seem to matter much (or maybe kids don’t want to admit it?)
  • When parents were young, they had  similar numbers of friends, ways of engaging with friends, and qualities that they valued in friends – but they believe the nature of friendship among children has changed since they were kids

Proximity plays a big role in friendships, but phones are essential for staying in touch.

  • Most friendships are sparked at school or in the neighborhood, making it easy to see friends regularly (46% see them daily, 39% 4 to 5 times a week)
  • They prefer to stay in touch via phone and personal contact (50% phone, 32% text/SMS, 33% in person exclusively)
  • Online communication like chatting, Skype, and email ranked below phone and personal contact (29% chat, 18% Skype, 17% email)
  • When kids get together, they usually play outdoors (75%) or indoors (65%)

Even though devices seem to have taken over children’s free time, only 1 in 10 kids listed a device as a best friend.

  • About 1 in 10 consider a computer, tablet, or iPod/MP3 player to be a best friend
  • They’re less likely to count devices as best friends than parents, pets, cousins, siblings, grandparents, and cuddly toys

Parents know their kids’ friends, and kids consider their parents to be close confidantes. Parent-child relationships are open and based on trust, rather than authority.

  • More than half of parents know all their kids’ friends personally and over a third know of all but have not met them
  • Parents of younger kids are most likely to know all their kids’ friends
  • More than half of kids see their parents (especially their moms) as best friends

Team activities among friends mainly involve catering to their own needs, or those of their families.

  • The most common activity kids engage in more with friends than alone is helping each other with things like homework or sports (65%)
  • Other team activities include sharing toys (56%), helping parents with housework or childcare (28-36%), or putting on a play or performance (33%)
  • They’re less likely to team up for activities that benefit other people, like helping the elderly, charity work, or cooking for others (10%)