Caught in the Middle: Canadian “Technology Sandwich Generation” Stresses Over Both Kids’ and Aging Parents’ Data Security and Well-Being

As COVID-19 has made technology in the home increasingly the lifeblood of all connections to the outside world, more Canadians who care for both kids and aging parents worry about the data privacy of their family members and managing the technology needs of their parents. When it comes to kids and screen time, however, they aren’t so concerned: 64% of parents feel the same or better about their children’s tech usage as they did pre-pandemic.

In our most recent global technology study, we uncovered and dubbed an especially stressed population, the Technology Sandwich Generation—parents of children under 18 who also assist their own aging parents with technology. We then dug a little deeper with Canada-specific research to see what that meant locally. Our research insights show that consumer and technology brands have a great opportunity to better empower and protect this group of pressed Canadians.

Sixty-eight per cent of survey respondents said they help their parents with technology-related matters; a third did so in person, and 43% said doing so is a burden. This could indicate that this assistance takes away from precious time to enjoy family. In addition, 81% of respondents were worried about their parents falling victim to hackers, scammers or phishing attacks. COVID-19 is making these scenarios even more acute as the high-risk senior population remains stuck at home.

When it comes to their children’s use of technology, 74% of Canadians in this group agree that technology has had a positive impact on parenting, and close to nine in 10 (86%) felt better or the same about video gaming during COVID than they did five months prior to the pandemic. Many reports have shown that children’s screen time is a huge concern for Canadian parents, but this isn’t so much of an issue for this current generation who are digital natives themselves, who play games and value screen time.

While technology has helped parents through the pandemic, they have also likely felt more stressed as their own parents are forced to stay home and master technology on their own or remotely (think online banking, updating tablets, etc.). Aging parents who can’t adapt face more isolation and possible risk when it comes to data privacy and security.

Security and ease-of-use should be top priorities for brands aiming to reach both younger and older generations of Canadians. The Technology Sandwich Generation is looking to keep both its children and parents safe, while removing the burden of having to support their parents with new technology. This is where the opportunity lies for brands.

Ketchum advises our clients to think specifically about the following:

  • Education is paramount. Brands that help adults keep their aging parents safe and functional will have a huge market opportunity. Even basic education campaigns and assistance programs can be a winner for a consumer technology brand building trust.
  • Ageism won’t fly. Brands that ignore the needs of older adults, one of Canada’s largest demographic blocks, will face new backlash—and lose huge swaths of potential customers.
  • Data protection is top of mind. There will be more criticism and distrust of brands that don’t go above and beyond to protect against data scams and privacy issues related to society’s most vulnerable senior citizens. Financial institutions, healthcare institutions, governments and others will be held to a higher standard, so this should be a top priority for them.

As technology continues to disrupt all parts of consumer life and become even more critical for virtual interaction, brands can consider the unique needs of seniors and their grown kids during COVID-19 and beyond and provide solutions that help alleviate the burden and risk. If you’re interested in learning more about the study and how you can use the insights, we’re happy to talk.

Based in Montréal, Bernard is a vice president at Ketchum Canada who builds and manages national marketing and communications programs specific to the tech, sporting goods and wellness industries.