Parents berate themselves for staying glued to their smartphones. But they’re even more worried their kids can’t detach from the small screen.
A survey from Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey found 47% of parents worry their child is addicted to their mobile device. By comparison, only 32% of parents say they’re addicted themselves.
Half of parents also say they are at least somewhat concerned about how mobile devices will affect their kids’ mental health. Nearly one in five say they’re “extremely” or “very” concerned.
“For as much attention as technology addiction receives among adults, parents — particularly those with teenagers — are far more concerned about their children’s device usage than their own,” Jon Cohen, chief research officer with SurveyMonkey, said in a statement Thursday.
According to the survey, 89% of parents believe it’s up to them to curb their children’s smartphone usage.
The survey conducted between Jan. 25 and Jan. 29 included a sample of 4,201 adults, including 1,024 parents with children under age 18. Data was weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the U.S. for adults over 18, based on Census data.
Recently, tech giants including Facebook, Google and Apple have been pushed to come up with solutions to prevent kids from growing addicted to technology.
This month, Common Sense Media and the non-profit Center for Humane Technology launched a campaign to explore the mental health consequences of technology.
The Truth About Tech campaign will be funded by $7 million from Common Sense and money raised by the new non-profit. At the time the campaign was launched, Common Sense said it would also use donated airtime from Comcast and DirecTV. The nonprofit now says its earlier statement is not accurate. Comcast said it is not supporting the Truth in Tech campaign. DirecTV would not comment.
“Parental concerns about technology addiction and the content children are exposed to on devices is very real, yet parents feel that they alone are responsible for managing these issues,” Common Sense Media CEO James P. Steyer said. “It would be nice if the tech companies would partner with parents in this effort.”
Former employees of Facebook and Google are among those leading the charge to urge tech companies to act.
Last month, two major Apple investors implored the company to explore ways to fight smartphone addiction among children. The investors collectively control about $2 billion in Apple shares. In response, Apple said it was adding more “robust” parental controls to its devices.
Common Sense and other children advocacy groups have particularly criticized Facebook for recently rolling out a Messenger Kids app aimed at kids under 13. Facebook has defended its decision to go ahead with it, pointing to the advice it received from a team of child experts and efforts it took to make sure parents had control over the app. But a recent Wired report detailing Facebook’s financial support of these experts, which Facebook says covers logistics costs for their time, added more momentum to the controversy over whether tech companies are trying to get kids hooked too early.
Many devices and services feature parental controls, but some parents may not be aware they exist. The Common Sense-SurveyMonkey survey found 22% of parents did not know YouTube — which has faced scrutiny over how easy it is for kids to find inappropriate videos — offered parental controls. Also, 37% have not used the controls before.
That’s a problem as YouTube often is the go-to entertainment platform of choice for kids, who have made creators such as Logan Paul superstars.
Among parents surveyed who say their kids watch YouTube videos, 62% said their kids have seen inappropriate videos on the site. Most, or 81%, said it’s the parents’ job to prevent kids from seeing these videos.
For parents who worry their kids spend too much time on their smartphones, here are some tips:
*Set time limits and enforce them. Block out time during the day where your kids can use a smartphone or tablet. And don’t give in when they might beg for “one more minute.”
*Explore parental controls. Most services such as YouTube offer them, but your smartphone has its own suite of tools to tailor the experience to your kids.
*Try zones where tech is not allowed. Want a phone-free dinner? Or no gadgets before bed time? Consider creating areas in your home where technology is completely off limits. Just remember parents have to follow these guidelines, too.