Northern Ireland

68% of Northern Ireland parents worried about their children’s future

The results of The Big Parenting Survey 2023/24 reveal a significant increase in parental worries

Sad girl (age 10) reading a bullying post on social media. Real people. Copy space
The negative effects of technology, including social media and phones, on children is a major concern of Northern Ireland parents (chameleonseye/Getty Images)

More than two-thirds of parents say they are ‘more worried than hopeful’ about the future, with an overwhelming majority (86%) highlighting a lack of support.

Other concerns identified by the survey of 1,100 parents by charity Parenting Focus, formerly Parenting NI, included vaping, technology, mental health, bullying and the lack of affordable or flexible childcare.

The 68% of parents who said they are more worried than hopeful is an 11% jump from 2021, when the survey was last conducted.

A similarly negative trend was reflected in the proportion of parents who agreed that their hopes for their children are achievable in Northern Ireland. This was down from 46% to just a third.

Meanwhile, financial worries had negatively impacted the mental health of 83% of respondents.

Chris Quinn, Commissioner for Children and Young People, said the results showed where the executive needed to direct its support for parents after “years of austerity and the continuing cost-of-living crisis which has had negative impacts on many families”.

“Being a parent is the best job in the world, but it can also be the most challenging,” he said.

Parenting Focus Senior Participation and Research Officer – Emma Hitchen, NI Children’s and Young People Commissioner Chris Quinn, Parenting Focus dads – Stephen and William, PF Interim CEO – Koulla Yiasouma
Parenting Focus senior participation and research officer Emma Hitchen, NI Children’s and Young People Commissioner, Chris Quinn, Parenting Focus fathers Stephen and William, and the charity's interim CEO,Koulla Yiasouma at the launch of this year's parenting survey

“It is clear to me that children and young people do not always receive the support they need, and that goes for parents too.”

It was imperative that executive prioritised an anti-poverty strategy, he said.

In Northern Ireland, the availability of affordable childcare lags behind that in England, where the government is rolling-out 30 hours of free care a week for working parents whose children are aged between nine months and up to school age.

Parenting Focus dad – Stephen, NI Children’s and Young People Commissioner Chris Quinn, Parenting Focus dad – William
Parenting Focus 'dads' Stephen and William with, pictured centre, NI Children’s and Young People Commissioner Chris Quinn at the launch of the Big Parenting Survey

With vaping identified as a major concern of parents, the NI Executive has agreed that it will bring a motion to the Assembly to ask for MLAs’ approval to introduce the British government’s proposals to ban youth smoking and control the sale and marketing of vapes if they become law.

Koulla Yiasouma, interim CEO of Parenting Focus, said the survey showed a significant increase in parental worries.

“As parents and carers, we have hopes and dreams for our children,” she said.

“It is devastating that this has been taken away from two thirds of parents.”