School & District Management

Parent Media Use, Attitudes Probed By New Study

By Leo Doran — December 06, 2016 2 min read
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Cross-posted from the Digital Education blog

Parents report spending large portions of their day watching television, playing video games, and trawling through social media—while still mostly expressing confidence that they are setting good examples for their children, according to a new study by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based nonprofit and advocacy group.

The study, “The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens 2016,” aims to analyze how parents contribute to the teen and “tween” media use landscape.

For the purpose of the report, “teens” are considered to be ages 13 to 18, and “tweens” are ages 8 to 12. Also, simultaneous media use is counted twice, so one hour spent listening to music while writing work emails would count as two hours of “media time.”

Key findings from the study, based upon almost 1,800 parent responses:

  • Parents spend an average of 9 hours and 22 minutes per day on screen time (1:39 for work purposes, and 7:43 for personal purposes.) White parents, better educated parents and higher wage-earners reported spending the least time in front of screens.
  • Seventy-eight percent of parents believe they do a good job of modeling appropriate media use to their children. Mothers are slightly more likely to hold this belief than fathers.
  • The average parent is not overly concerned with how much time their children spend online—only 43 percent are at least moderately worried about internet time. Parents of “tweens,” however, are consistently more concerned about Internet time and the content accessed by their children than parents of teens.
  • The vast majority of parents believe it is important to monitor their children’s media use. A 41 percent plurality report checking their child’s social media “always” or “most of the time.”
  • Hispanic parents are more likely to be closely engaged in monitoring and restricting their children’s media use than other parents. Fifty-seven percent of Hispanic parents say they are concerned about their children oversharing personal details online, compared to 30 percent of white parents and 35 percent of black parents.
  • More than 90 percent of parents across all income brackets believe that technology has a positive impact on their children’s education.
  • Parents generally allow their children to use mobile devices freely, except for “at bedtime” and “at family meals,” when device use is forbidden in 63 percent and 78 percent of households respectively.

Because the survey results were collected over the course of seven days, and the media use numbers were collected by asking parents how much time they spend with media “yesterday.” it is unclear from the study how parent media use changes (if at all) from work-days to weekends.

Other studies by Common Sense Media have shown how tech usage is highest among poorer and minority students. In May, the group issued a report on tech addiction, which prompted some of our opinion bloggers to point out that it takes a village to put effective policies in place, and that parents are also at risk.

This most recent study comes on the heels of a meta-study published by British researchers that has reinvigorated concerns about how “blue light” emitted from computers, tablets and smartphones affects student sleep patterns.

Chart: Common Sense Media

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.