Viacom Global Insights undertook research to uncover how families today operate, what their values are, and how they have been influenced by the rise of technology. Pulling data from a variety of sources, these are some of the key take-outs from our studies.

Families are becoming more insular. Spending quality time together is the top priority in families, for both children and parents. In South Africa, 79% of parents want their children to see them as their best friends, on par with the global average. Our research has found that because families want to spend more time together, they will seek out activities and products that allow them to do so.

Grandparents are playing a key role. While families are closer than ever before, we are also witnessing the rise of the grandparent playing a bigger role within the household. In South Africa this phenomenon is higher than in countries like Canada, Portugal, Nigeria and New Zealand. In South Africa, 80% of parents say grandparents play a large role in their children’s lives. Grandparents often play the role of caregiver within a home while parents are out at work. At the same time, children also feel emotionally close to their grandparents, with 30% of kids in South Africa indicating that they provide help to their grandparents outside of the immediate home environment.

Gender equality in parenting is getting there…slowly. Dads are increasingly eager to play a role in their children’s lives, with 90% of South African fathers saying they want to be as hands-on in bringing up children as a mother. However, in practice, this ambition is yet to become a reality, with mothers around the world still carrying the brunt of the child-rearing burden.

What is worth noting is that parents today are raising their children in a more equal way, with the top four values for girls (being kind and courteous, polite, an independent thinker and self-sufficient) almost the same as for boys (the only difference being “hard working” is substituted for “independent thinker”). Instilling similar values across both genders today may see the parents of tomorrow fully realising equality in the distribution of child-rearing chores.

Super-Cocooning is a symptom of the Digital Age. Cocooning within the home is an important part of families spending time together. This means members gather around a screen (traditionally a TV) within a room where they enjoy quality time, perhaps also consuming a meal within this space. With the proliferation of digital platforms, cocooning has become “supersized”. So, while families still gather around a primary screen to stream their favourite shows and enjoy time together, there’s a lot of “second screening” going on, with teens connected to friends via social media platforms on their phones, and parents catching up on work without having to be in the office via their laptops or tablets. With the rise of digital delivery services like Uber Eats, and increased surveillance technology, families have fewer reasons than ever to leave the home.

Technology is affecting teens. While technology has allowed for this “super-cocooning” it has also created increased isolation among teenagers, who can personalise cocooning within their own rooms. In South Africa, 74% of teens indicated that they use tech to stay connected, with 84% of local children having access to a smartphone.

Indeed, parents today have a love-hate relationship with the technology their children use. It empowers their children to educate themselves on a variety of important topics and makes the children the primary information seekers for parents when it comes to purchasing decisions. However, parents are also concerned about the unprecedented internet access children today have. It creates the potential to expose them to a range of harmful content, with 17% of local children reporting being bullied online, as well as reducing their physical activity, and potentially hampering their social skills.

Technology within the home isn’t all bad, and as families continue to be re-imagined in the Digital Age, we may see an increase in the current democratisation of the family unit. For more information on how this particular trend is influencing the way families purchase products and interact with brands, take a look at our Path to Purchase study here.