Where is fatherhood going, and how far has it really come?
1 in 5 Australians are dads. There are approximately 4.6 million fathers in Australia, with an estimated 2.2 million of these have children aged under 18. The median age of a first-time dad today is 31, so today’s emerging generation of dads are Gen Yers and are parenting Generation Alpha, born since 2010.
Gen Alpha are the first generation of children to be shaped in an era of portable digital devices, and for many, the pacifiers have not been a rattle or set of keys but a smartphone or tablet device. A key role of fathers has always been to create a safe and supportive environment in which their children can thrive, and today this involves more than providing a physically secure home, but also a cybersafe one with 96% of households with children having internet access, and with Gen Alpha using personal digital devices at an ever younger age. However, Generation Y parents have been shaped in the digital world and so are better equipped to respond to new parenting challenges of managing cyberbullying, watching out for screen addiction, and ensuring child-friendly content. In the year that the oldest Gen Ys first became fathers in record numbers (2010), the iPad entered the market, “app” was the word of the year and Instagram was launched.
Our research has also found that Gen Y dads are not as competent or confident as their fathers were to change the oil in their car, repair a punctured bicycle tyre or fix a leaky tap, but in many ways, in an outsourcing era, they’re able to buy replacements or outsource those services. While they may have lost some of these traditional skills, they have picked up some new ones. Our research showed they are far more likely to be confident in changing a baby’s nappy, doing a grocery shop, buying clothes for their children and cooking a meal for their family.
Our analysis of Gen Y fathers has shown that they are parenting in ways that are responding to the changes relevant to these times and importantly, very relational with their children. This is important for this generation that was born in the 20th century, have entered parenthood in the 21st century and are shaping the first gen of children that will live into the 22nd century.
More on effective parenting strategies can be found in Mark McCrindle’s book The ABC of XYZ: Understanding The Global Generations.