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Second Shift

What Facebook Found Out By Studying The Parents On Its Site

"Meet the Parents" is Facebook's foray into studying the needs and wants of parents across the globe.

[Photo: Flickr user dearestlou]

"If it doesn’t change your life, you’re doing it wrong." So said one mom, who we’ll call Alex, at the beginning of her parenting journey. She now has three—ranging in age from 21 to 13—and maintains that life looks very different than it did before she had kids. But a lot about parenting is different now.

Thanks to the collision of technology with society and culture, a sweeping new Facebook study of parents across the globe suggests that although the mission of parenting is timeless and the impact of having a child is huge, the journey of raising children has changed radically.

According to a blog post on Facebook:

Today’s parental landscape is increasingly varied, and the very definition of family has expanded. Indeed, families come in all shapes and sizes. Moms are choosing to have children at later ages, and dads are more involved in raising children. Meanwhile, mobile-first millennials are becoming parents and bringing their tech-savvy ways to bear, all while children’s voices are gaining influence at home.

With 1.55 billion monthly active users in the third quarter of 2015 who spend upwards of 25 hours a month on the platform, according to Statista, Facebook is a massive source for raw data on how people behave online. Remember the LOL study?

To narrow the scope to parents, Facebook analyzed its internal data (some self-reported by users, other inferred) among users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., who were over 18 and among three parenting groups: those who were expecting, those with school-age kids (4-12), and those with teens (up to age 19).

As part of its multi-phased study called "Meet the Parents," Facebook also commissioned Ipsos Media to conduct an online survey among parents ages 25–65 in the same countries used in Facebook’s analysis. Evenly split by gender, the group was divided up between new parents, those with kids ages 1–5, parents of school-age children 6–12, and parents of teens (up to 17).

Sound Research did a qualitative study using a combination of online focus groups, in-home video diaries, and in-depth interviews with parents aged 25-65 in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.

All together, data was gathered from 8,300 parents and five parenting experts. The analysis is still not complete, but Facebook has published some of the overarching trends they’ve observed among the parents studied in eight countries.

Mobile Moms And Dads

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s prolific documentation of his daughter’s birth notwithstanding, one of the biggest developments in parenting is how connected mothers and fathers are to their children, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones. Analysis reveals that parents globally spend 1.3 times more time on Facebook mobile than those without children.

Parents Without Borders

The mobile surge means that a Facebook newsfeed can quickly be turned into a shopping experience, complete with price comparisons and customer reviews to make more informed purchasing decisions.

But it also means that there’s a world of information and advice under parents’ thumbs.

According to the blog post:

83% of the parents we surveyed globally said they have access to more information than their parents did, and 70% say they’re more informed than their parents were. This is particularly true for 76% of boomers, who gained access to the Internet and mobile devices later in life than their younger counterparts.

Just like unsolicited advice given by the kindly (usually childless) individual in the checkout line while your child is having a tantrum, this isn’t always a plus. Especially for new parents who aren’t as confident in their child-rearing skills, a proliferation of individual opinions can leave them feeling more confused than empowered.

As their children grow, they too can tap the wealth of information available on mobile, and according to the Facebook study, have become increasingly vocal about their expertise on certain subjects.

According to the report, "Over 50% of parents globally say their child has more impact on purchasing decisions than they did in their family growing up. And 50% believe they listen to their child more than their parents listened to them."

The Importance Of Self-Care

A global study from EY found that full-time workers are struggling to balance longer hours with getting enough sleep and spending time with friends and family. Working parents are especially susceptible as they are usually juggling career and family life, and not many employers have figured out strategies to retain talented individuals who are often toggling between their children’s needs and their responsibilities at work. Indeed, many parents report wanting paid time off, more flexible hours, and help paying for the astronomical cost of child care.

Another part of this reality, when information is crowding in from all sides and kids are crowing to be fed or engaged, is that what most parents want is a little time to themselves, according to Facebook’s analysis.

Although 83% of parents globally describe their family as loving, and over three-quarters (77%) say their family is happy, nearly half (48%) are concerned about their finances, and 39% reported being crunched for time.

The result is a huge swath of individuals yearning for "me" time to spend with friends or on fitness, or what one hashtag describes as a "denkpause," which translates to "thinking break." Facebook issued the following reminder to brands trying to reach parents, which is good advice no matter what: "Give them permission to and extol the virtues of putting on their oxygen masks first" because "moms and dads have rich lives and interests outside of their children."

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