Watchworthy Wednesday: Survey Analyzes Plugged-in Parents

While 8- to 18-year-olds are clocking in lots of screen time, their parents are doing the same if not more, according to a new survey, measuring parental media use.

The study by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that provides parents, educators and youth with information to help with navigating media and technology, found that parents of teens and tweens spend more than nine hours a day looking at their screens. Of those parents surveyed, 78 percent believe they are good media and technology role models for their children.

“The great news is that the report shows that parents are trying to be good digital role models and are overwhelmingly supportive of the positive benefits of media in their kids’ lives. No, we’re not perfect — and the report reveals the tension between what we do and what we want our kids to do. But, we’re concerned about our kids, and most of us think we have a role in protecting them from online risks. Finally, the report suggests that when parents are aware of their kids’ online activities, they’re less likely to worry — which is a great reason to be engaged with your kids’ media,” according to Michael Robb, Common Sense Media media’s director of research.

Robb points to the survey’s findings:

  • Forty-three percent of parents are worried about their children spending too much time online and a third of parents are concerned that technology use is hurting their children’s sleep.
  • Two-thirds of parents say that monitoring media use is more important than respecting kids’ privacy. More than two in five parents check their children’s devices and social media accounts “always” or “most of the time.”
  • Sixty percent of Latino parents were concerned about their children spending too much time online, as compared to 37 percent of white parents and 33 percent of black parents.

“The sheer amount of media and tech in our lives makes it tough to monitor and manage our own use — let alone our kids’. And though screen-time guidelines are helpful, there are no hard-and-fast rules about how much is OK and how much is ’too much,’ ” Robb notes. “But amid these obstacles, parents’ positive attitudes about the role of technology is a hopeful sign. We should build on this optimism by supporting uses of technology that foster academic and personal development. Role-modeling is a great start to promoting a healthy digital lifestyle, and parents can help establish good habits through family rituals like device-free dinners and media activities that strengthen relationships. Taking a hard look at the family media environment is an important step toward helping kids develop the digital citizenship skills they need to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends creating a personalized family media plan, including rules for children and their parents, and designated ‘media free’ times.

A media policy brief, “Families and Screen time: Current Advice and Emerging Research,” by Alicia Blum-Ross and Sonia Livingstone, recommends that instead of limiting screen time, parents should ask themselves and their children questions about screen context (where, when and how digital media are accessed), content (what is being watched or used), and connections (whether and how relationships are facilitated or impeded). Read more in Blum-Ross and Livingstone’s DML Central blog.

Editor’s note: Watchworthy Wednesday posts highlight interesting DML resources and appear in DML Central every Wednesday. Any tips for future posts are welcome. Please comment below or send email to mcruz@hri.uci.edu.