COVID-19 search data shows parenting needs are changing in the pandemic

Daniel Trovato, Maria Helena Marinho / December 2020

Am I a good parent? It’s a question that’s always on the mind of mums and dads. To answer that question, parents across generations have sought advice and affirmation from their community and experts, from blogs, books, and videos, and, of course, search.

Those searches, in turn, have given marketers a way to reach parents with relevant messaging in their times of need.

But like everything else in 2020, parenting has been drastically affected by COVID-19. We’ve seen unprecedented changes in the way people search on Google for parenting advice. And the “why’s” behind those searches — the needs, emotions, and expectations — shed new light on how parents are adapting to their changing family dynamics, all of which has implications for marketers.

Our team at Google combed through global search data to understand how parents have been affected by COVID-19 and how they’ve responded. We also teamed up with The Green Room Collective to conduct in-depth interviews with parents in the US to gain further insight into the mindset of parents.1 Here’s what we found:

More quality time

There is one silver lining. Despite the many challenges parents have had to face, they are grateful for the extra time they have been able to spend with their families.

“We have to give [the children] more attention during the day than we ever would have before,” said one respondent. “I feel like I’ve gotten to know them better. We’ve had more interactions than we ever would have had previously.”

Searches for “family movies on” have grown globally by over 100% year over year.

“I won’t forget about how valuable I found this time with my family,” said another.

One indicator that families are spending more quality time together: Searches for “family movies on” have grown globally by over 100% year over year.2

No longer just parents

But the fact is that parents in the time of COVID-19 are no longer just parents.

With multiple family members living, working, and schooling under the same roof, parents have had to become office managers as the home becomes a multipurpose space that probably wasn’t designed with an eye toward being an office, school, and entertainment hub. Families, therefore, are trying to optimise their space for everything they need right now by creating separation. Searches for “kids desk” have grown globally by over 500% year over year.3

Illustrated desk overlaid with search magnifying glass icon representing the claim that searches for “kids desk” have grown globally by over 500% year over year.

“We sectioned off a room for my wife so she could have an office,” said one respondent. “We got our son a better computer, and set him up in an area where he can do school work and play music and do stuff like that.”

Which leads us to two of the biggest stressors for parents: playing teacher and entertainer.

With schools across the globe shut for a large part of the year, and some still trying to figure out the right approach to moving forward, parents are scrambling to fill in the gaps. Searches for “online learning” have grown globally by over 400% year over year, and searches for “home schooling” have grown globally by over 200% in the same time frame.4

Searches for “online learning” have grown globally by over 400% year over year.

“I’ve just learned how much kids this age need during the day and how hard it is to be a teacher,” said one person we interviewed.

Kids need entertainment as well. As summer approached, parents found themselves working from home, and the usual options for their children — summer camps, local pools, and parks — weren’t an option. Searches for “activities for kids” have grown globally by over 100% since last year.5 Searches for “trampoline with” have grown globally by over 600% year over year.6 And searches for “backyard ideas” have grown globally by over 200% year over year.7

COVID-19 also changed some long-held approaches to parenting when it comes to entertainment.

“We used to be pretty big on no screen time for the kids. We let them watch TV, but not very often. And now there’s a lot of times we’re, like, just go out on the iPad and … they’ll be distracted and focus on something else,” said one respondent. “So there’s a lot more of that going on than there ever was before.“

Making up for lost experience

Entertainment and education aren’t the only things parents are worried about. They’re also trying to compensate for lost or diminished experiences now that so much has been restricted, canceled, or postponed indefinitely.

Searches for “birthday banner” have grown globally by over 100% since last year, indicating parents are trying to ensure key family events and occasions still feel special.8

Looking for answers — and support

Since the onset of the pandemic, two primary needs have increased in importance for the majority of people and parents in particular: the need to regain some sense of control amid an otherwise out-of-control situation and the need for human connection.

Marketers have an opportunity to tailor their messaging and solutions to inspire, motivate, and comfort parents.

One parent we spoke to mentioned feeling like she lacked support and ”like I had to do it all on my own, like I have to … try to do some schooling, the child care, the play.”

How brands can serve parents

Reaching and connecting with parents is a significant growth driver for many brands. But it’s not just about sticking a brand name in front of someone using search. Marketers have an opportunity to tailor their messaging and solutions to inspire, motivate, and comfort parents in this challenging time. Brands that help parents solve problems in a meaningful way — one that touches on the need to be a good parent or reassures them they’re creating good experiences for their children — will spur gratitude and relief. And those that can assist parents in making the most of the new quality time they’re spending with family have a chance to build positive feelings and brand loyalty.

Google Trends: Searches rise for live information during second wave of restrictions