Parents all around the world share a lot of worries when it comes to their kids. Our research study Are We There Yet?: Today’s Parents, Tomorrow’s Kids, conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic, found that global parents’ main anxieties when it comes to their children are their future, their mental health, in-person bullying, their physical well-being, and social media.

Our analysis also revealed some notable conflicts in the approaches that parents are taking when raising their children. Often torn in different directions, these are some of the most prominent tensions that we observed in today’s parents:

Giving kids independence vs. keeping them safe. Kids like to have freedom – and independence is among the top four qualities that parents want to instill in their children. At the same time, most parents (91%) like to know what their child is doing. While these two notions may feel incompatible, they’re not. Parents try to balance them to foster their kids’ resilience – not offering up too much risk, but not shielding them so much them that they don’t learn to deal with setbacks and difficulties.

Exposing kids to the real world vs. sheltering them. Virtually all parents (92%) believe that kids need to understand the world and that they can’t be shielded from everything. However, most parents (60%) also believe that children should be sheltered so they can enjoy their childhood. While parents clearly see the value of letting kids see the world as it is, they also may have reasonable concerns about how much is too much.

Formal learning vs. play. Parents have conflicting opinions about how kids learn most effectively. 77% think structured classes are best and 88% think kids learn best through play. The reality is that kids like to learn things in different ways, and both are important.

Traditional education vs. “school of life.” Tensions are apparent in parents’ views of traditional education compared with other life skills. Three-quarters of parents (73%) say they would do anything to get their child into the best school or university, while 80% feel it’s more important that their child learn practical life skills than get good grades.

Restricting screen time vs. using it as a reward. Parents’ feelings are also mixed when it comes to their kids’ access to screens. On the one hand, 80% of parents say they limit screen time as much as possible. At the same time, many use it as an incentive for their kids, with 58% of parents saying they reward good behavior with TV or screen time. In the end, parents’ attitudes vary based on the type of screen and how it’s being used. Many see the benefits, with 84% feeling that TV is great for family bonding and 65% believing that video games can be good for a child’s development.