Commentary

Millennial Parents: TV Becomes The 'Good Screen'

As millennials become parents, the family dynamic is completely shifting again.

The first shift happened when millennials were kids and, for the first time, they became “the boss.”  The "baby on board" generation was the rising sun of their parents.

So what happens when the boss child becomes a parent? They want to give their kids what their parents gave them, while maintaining command. So we find a new dynamic: "We're in this together,” where "me time" means spending time with the kids while still pursuing their own passions.

Ask millennial parents what they do with their kids, and 60% say, "I don't only think about kid-specific activities." Forty percent of dads say, "I have no problem with people bringing kids to bars." Ten percent of millennial moms agree; the rest think Dad's nuts. 

In a recent project, I experienced firsthand millennials waiting for a workshop, with 40 people sitting silently, all looking at their mobile devices. I thought this was a little creepy — but we've all seen this "separate togetherness," a central tenet of the millennial parent dynamic.

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Watch TV, Rather than Go Online

Yet it’s ironic that the digital generation, the original "digital natives," are pretty anti-digital parents. Because they're concerned about digital disconnection, they view TV as the “good screen.” TV has always been that screen everybody wants to hate when it comes to children, but now parents are so concerned about the digital environment that TV is now OK.

When we talked to Gen-X moms, we found they were more lenient about their kids’ digital use, because when these parents were young they were less connected. Now they’re afraid that if their kids aren’t online they'd become losers. 

But millennial parents who grew up digital are stricter with their kids. Sixty-two percent are "very worried about the time my child spends on their own device,” and 65%  would "rather my kid watch TV than be online."

That’s a huge shift, which again is ironic because millennials have been credited with the demise of linear television. 

Still, millennials have unmet needs for content that connects families. Three in four millennials say that when watching TV with their kids, they usually watch kids shows they don't like. They say things like, "I'm watching ‘Ninja Warrior’ — but do I really love it, or do I just feel this is something we can all watch and enjoy in equal measure?" 

Millennial parents respond to concepts that satisfy their drive to try new things, and it's even better if Junior can come along. They crave experiences that broaden their and the children’s horizons. They know firsthand about the dangers of digital addiction, online pressures, and disconnection via connection. Now they want solutions to these concerns.

In sum, the generation credited with the demise of TV now views it as the good screen, yet are underwhelmed by the lack of quality “family content.” And where there is discontent, there is opportunity for brands and media producers to step up and produce a better product.

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