Real Family Concerns

4 Oct 2021

The pandemic has brought many sudden changes to our life, and for parents, a new level of concern when it comes to keeping our families safe and happy. Between worrying about financial stability, job security, insurance cover and the safety of our children online, it's understandable that emotions are running high right now.

The Real Family Concerns report is our third instalment in the Real Concerns series, building upon insights revealed in the Real Concerns of Parents 2020 and Real Concerns Index 2019 reports. In this chapter, we explore how family finances and children’s online security is on parents’ minds in the context of the ongoing pandemic and compare how this measures up against previous reports from 2017 to 2020.

What’s worrying Aussie parents in 2021?

COVID-19 drastically changed our lives and brought about new challenges for the wellbeing and safety of our families. We asked our community to identify the biggest threats to our families at this time.

For most parents (63.1%), COVID-19 is the biggest threat to the wellbeing of the family unit. However, concerns around mental health and wellbeing (57.8%), financial hardship (52.0%), physical health (40.4%) and safety threats from strangers (35.2%) are also big threats.

In these uncertain times, it’s not surprising that almost all parents surveyed (89.7%) worry about protecting their family. As we learn to live in a world where COVID-19 exists, at least for the foreseeable future, it’s expected that our main concerns will continue to evolve. This is especially true of our concerns about online safety and financial security, as we continue to see more permanent changes to our lifestyles.

Top dangers of the internet

While the internet is a great tool for helping our children stay educated, connected and entertained during lockdowns, it can also be dangerous, as these activities can come with concerning online threats.

For parents in the digital age, it’s understandable that concerns around online safety are high. More than half (54.9%) report that their children are spending more time in front of screens unrelated to education compared to two years ago. So, what are the biggest online threats worrying parents now?

What worries parents most about kids spending time online is the risk of them encountering predators (59.3%), but cyber bullying (54.1%), online scams (52.0%), internet addiction (51.5%) and exposure to pornography (48.3%) are also big concerns.

Unfortunately, we’re not just being overprotective, as many as one in three (35.7%) of those surveyed say their children have already experienced these online threats. Alarmingly, the findings suggest our pre-teen children are just as likely to have encountered online privacy issues, scams or cyber bullying as teens.

Keeping our children safe online

It’s likely that some aspects of our lives will remain virtual for the foreseeable future, with most of us leaning into conversations with our children around online safety.

Many parents are leading with the approach of education, teaching children how to have a balanced relationship with technology (51.9%), educating them about responsible usage (50.9%) and explaining the potential consequences if they are not careful (50.3%).

Parents also believe schools should step up in addressing online safety (87.5%) and agree that there should be a place for this in the curriculum.

Families worry about the impacts on their wallets

Living through a pandemic means that we continue to worry about the financial security of our families. The majority of those surveyed (88.0%) feel concerned about the financial impact COVID-19 is having on our local and global economy and with sudden lockdowns and restrictions, comes concern about job security (43.5%).

As a result, parents feel anxious about the rising cost of living (80.3%) and nervous about their ability to cover day-to-day expenses, bills and debt (66.8%).

With this in mind, we’re also questioning our retirement plans. In fact, many parents (75.7%) are worrying about whether they’re putting away enough money towards retirement and only a quarter (25.0%) say they’re on track for a satisfying retirement.

While it’s common (57.3%) to worry about what our families would do without us, parents are equally uncertain that their current insurance cover of any kind is enough to ensure the protection of their family and help get them through difficult times (63.8%).

Dealing with unprecedented circumstances and keeping our families safe from new threats is daunting for many of us, but experts suggest there are opportunities to equip our families into the future.

Family psychologist, Clare Rowe, says that while COVID-19 has put more strain on parents and children, it’s encouraging to know there are ways to support our family’s wellbeing at this time.

“Maintaining routine in family life can help provide consistency and predictability. Creating family rituals can help bring people together and promote a sense of belonging and shared experience. This could be as simple as a family games night or a regular weekend cooked breakfast and most importantly regular and meaningful communication to check in and see how individual family members are coping”.

To find out how our biggest concerns have reprioritised over the last year, take a look at the Real Concerns of Parents 2020 report.

Download full research report