Nickelodeon Pronounces the Generation Gap Closed

Comedian Jim Breuer understandably struggled to explain when one of his three young daughters asked him about the premise of the pro-substance, pro-couch surfing late ‘90s cult hit Half Baked, which he starred in alongside Dave Chappelle.

Breuer’s daughter had found out about the movie online. In stark contrast to his goofy, everyman-next-door public persona, Breuer, speaking as part of a panel at Nickelodeon’s “Family GPS” research symposium in New York, seemed every bit the protective parent when he told his daughter that Half Baked was a movie he made long before she was born, that it was rated R and that daddy sometimes played “weird” characters. He admitted to the audience that, as a parent, the dangers of drugs were his “number one fear.”

The panel also included Real Housewives of New York City cast member Jill Zarin and Clarixy and Jose Batista, one of the families that participated in the year-and-a-half long Nickelodeon research study covering the changing trends and values within American families. The panel was moderated by ABC News correspondent and mother of two, Deborah Roberts.

The research study found that families today share many more of the same interests in pop culture, music and technology than in past generations. It found that technology in the home serves as a “core family member,” as parents and kids bond over common content.

“As Millienials become parents and Baby Boomers become grandparents, today’s families are different from what we’ve seen and come to expect from previous generations,” said Ron Geraci, senior VP of Nickelodeon Research. “Instead of being divided by tastes and clashing over values and things like music and entertainment choices, today’s parents, kids and grandparents are being drawn closer together by them.”

The study found that 82% of families watch TV at home together each week. 77% watch movies together. 41% of parents and kids are listening to music together, while gaming as a family has become increasingly popular as well; 36% of families play video games together weekly.

Zarin talked about how technology had allowed her to keep in constant contact with her 17 year-old daughter, saying it was much easier for parents to keep tabs on their kids today than in her parent’s day.

Panel moderator Roberts, who is married to Today correspondent and weatherman Al Roker, echoed a point made in the survey that children often identified their mothers as family CEO. The majority of kids said that fathers were more a source of fun and play. While things weren’t always evenly balanced in her household, Roberts joked that Roker did his share: “My husband does all the cooking.”

The survey made it quite clear that the closing generation gap and parents that communicate more openly with their kids mean this isn’t your father’s American family unit. Breuer agreed, saying he and his wife talk as openly as possible with their kids. If he’s mad, he said, he’ll explain why. Roberts asked if that was different than the way Breuer grew up. “Oh yeah,” he quipped. “My dad didn’t start talking until last year.”