By Helenor Gilmour, Director of Insight, Beano Brain
Around ten years ago, pre-Covid and just as we welcomed the first Gen Alphas into the world, I worked on a project exploring the future of teenage magazines. We were plotting the trajectory of the print model against the onslaught of digital and trying to identify the key drivers and motivations that drew girls to the magazines.
In doing so we uncovered a theme that we dubbed “Mum as the new agony aunt”. No longer did girls feel the need to confide in a stranger about puberty, relationships or even sex. Flatter more democratic parenting structures meant that mum was the first port of call (especially in a crisis) and subsequently had a huge influence on their daughters’ moral codes, sense of self and life expectations.
The world has changed hugely since then, not least kids’ exposure to an ever-increasing set of influences via social media and other platforms, but what is abundantly clear from weekly chats with our Beano Trendspotter panels in the UK and US is that Mum/Mom continues to be the foundational rock that frees kids to explore a wider range of influences.
“In the least cheesy way, my mum genuinely influences me the most. We have similar mannerisms and characteristics that I have taken on because she’s a massive positive influence in my life” – Maya, 14
It seems that mum is not only the gatekeeper but the template that, girls especially, measure themselves against. And unlike Gen X who raged against everything, kids’ and teens’ disappointment tends to be focussed purely on authority. They are happy to walk a similar path to their parents and value their continued input in their lives.
“She’s shaped the kind of person I am and the qualities I’ve developed. She’s prepared me for all the obstacles I might face in social and academic situations” – Fayha, 15
Of course at Beano Brain we know kids admire Mr Beast, want to be part of the Nelson family, turn to Markiplier for gaming recommendations, devour TikTok for Shein hauls and style advice and learn Minecraft hacks from Dan TDM. But always there as the golden thread running through is mum – even for a bit of fashion advice (backed up by friends of course!)
“I don’t like dresses and stuff but I will never buy anything without checking my mum likes it first” – Daisy, 14
BUT WHAT ABOUT DAD?
That’s not to say that dads don’t have any influence – of course they do. As role models for boys, offering a different perspective within the household and often introducing alternative activities into kids’ lives. We know from research that dad is more likely than mum to play video games with their kids or pass on the love of or participation in a specific sport. Indeed, all hail the dads helping to break down the barriers for girls and soccer/football – coaching at home, inspiring club loyalties and setting up local girls’ teams for their daughter and her friends.
“My dad influences me in business, my mummy encourages me to work hard” – Josh, 12
However, with 50%* of kids in the UK living across more than one household and 90%* of lone families headed by women – it is mum who holds the most weight.
And that influence doesn’t diminish with age, like previous generations who actively rejected parental influence from puberty onwards. Rather mum’s influence morphs from leader to mentor, the base that kids and teens return to and refer to when needed.
The message for brands is this – that even with the ever-growing list of influences in kids’ and teens’ lives (which important routes to reach this audience) don’t forget mum because her influence doesn’t end at the High School gate but for Gen Z and Alpha, carries right on into adulthood.
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*Children’s Commissioner Review (UK) 2022