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Helicopter Parenting [Social Technologies]

Social ) Technologies
1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 815
Washington, DC 20036
Main office: +1 202 223 2801 www.socialtechnologies.com
Email: Hope Katz Gibbs

HELICOPTER PARENTING: The trend may be gathering speed in the US

September 10, 2007, Washington, DC—As young adults settle into college and school gets into full swing for younger kids, we are seeing more and more parents hover over their children’s lives. Called “helicopter parents,” they are micromanaging their offspring not just in kindergarten and elementary school, but all the way through college and into adulthood. If the numbers of helicopter parents truly are on the rise, the trend will have ramifications for educators and employers alike as well as for the parents and children themselves.

That is the conclusion of “Helicopter Parents: Hovering over Childhood—and Beyond,” a report by Kevin Osborn of the Washington, DC-based futurist research and consulting firm Social Technologies.

“The phenomenon seems to be spreading beyond pushy preschool parents,” Osborn explains. “As a result, some educators have called the 80 million children of baby boomers the most protected and programmed children ever.”

Levels of engagement

This spreading behavior goes beyond pressuring teachers to explain poor grades or asking to place their children in advanced classes, Osborn insists.

“Many of these micromanaging parents continue to overstep boundaries and attempt to control their children’s lives at every age level.”

• Elementary school—Hyper-involved and often pushy, these parents volunteer as school aides to maintain a constant presence in their children’s lives, request specific teachers year after year, and may do the bulk of work on their children’s school projects.
• High school—Helicopter parents become intrusive micromanagers, text messaging their kids in class, doing their homework projects and papers for them, and writing their college application essays.
• College—Parents intervene in roommate disputes, try to register their kids for classes, and contact professors to question grades. At some schools, more parents than kids attend freshman orientation.
• Career—College career offices, corporate recruiters, and human resources departments are all reporting increased involvement and interference from parents. Reportedly, one interviewee at Boeing brought his mom into the interview.


The reasons for the trend are complicated, but somewhat predictable, Osborn believes.

“As family sizes shrink, attention is focused more intently on the one or two children and some parents have responded by sheltering or smothering them,” he says. “Also, many baby boomers have worked hard to develop close bonds with their kids, often positioning themselves as their children’s best friends or closest confidants.”

Plus, he says, the growing spread of suburbs has made spontaneous community interaction more difficult. “Parents who want their children to have active social lives start planning play dates and signing them up for sports and extracurricular activities at a young age. Some may never step back from these habits of active management.”

Other drivers include:
• Safety fears
• A heightened sense of competition among baby boomers who fear for their children’s future economic security
• Ubiquitous infotech-enabled connection
• The increasing number of college parents who see themselves—in the face of soaring tuition costs—as savvy consumers and their children’s education as a product
“If seeing other parents hover compels more parents to join them to ensure their own children don’t fall behind, the practice will likely continue to spread,” Osborn shares, noting that a number of different outcomes are possible.
• Anxiety disorders—Some children of over-involved parents are likely to become more anxious, risk-averse, and self-conscious.
• Confidence deficit—Denied the accomplishment of setting goals and achieving—or failing to achieve—the goals on their own may carry into these children’s adult years, making them less assertive, possibly less competent, and more eager to conform.
• Suing schools—If parents become more meddlesome in primary schools, the market for liability insurance for teachers will grow rapidly. The number of teachers purchasing liability insurance already jumped 25% between 2000 and 2005, according to insurer Forrest T. Jones.

Business implications

“Hovering helicopter parents want to keep strict tabs on their children, which will expand the market for ‘emergency’ mobile phones for very young children and surveillance devices for older children,” Osborn forecasts, adding that as this group ages parents will continue to want to control. “They may demand control over credit and debit cards, checking and savings accounts, and other financial services.”

This trend will also impact homebuilders, manufacturers and retailers, employers, and even nonprofit organizations.

Learn more
To further discuss these and other business implications, drivers, and outcomes of this growing trend, set up an interview with Kevin Osborn by sending an email to Hope Gibbs, Social Technologies’ leader of corporate communications.

About ) Kevin Osborn
An award-winning author and editor, Kevin Osborn is one of Social Technologies’ senior writer/ analysts. He has contributed briefs on a wide range of business and lifestyle topics to the firm’s multiclient projects, as well as performing custom writing and analysis work for individual clients. A generalist by inclination, Osborn authored, co-authored, or ghostwrote more than 40 books as an independent writer for top US publishers before joining Social Technologies, including: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bringing Up Baby (Macmillan, 1997; 2006), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Classical Mythology (Macmillan, 1998; 2004), and The Encyclopedia of American Sports Heroes (Scholastic, 1996). Areas of expertise: Boomers/ Gen X/ Gen Y, China and Chinese consumers, the future of parenting and kids

About ) Social Technologies
Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the integration of foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington DC, London, and Shanghai, Social Technologies serves the world’s leading companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. A holistic, long-term perspective combined with actionable business solutions helps clients mitigate risk, make the most of opportunities, and enrich decision-making. For more information visit www.socialtechnologies.com, the blog: http://changewaves.socialtechnologies.com, and our newsletter, www.socialtechnologies.com/changewaves.

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