Research & Discovery

Is screen time an important parenting topic?

This varies by the age of children.

Newborn: It’s an important topic but not something parents think they have to spend a lot of time on yet. The general rule for newborns is little to no screen time, but it happens opportunistically. Only a few parents were very conscious not to have any screens around their newborn at all.

Toddler: Increasing importance compared to newborns as they start playing with digital devices whether intentional or unintentional on the part of the parents. It’s also increasingly important if a child is given a digital device from a friend or relative in terms of what to do with it, what to allow and when. Most parents say that they only allow 1 hour per day and they consistently report that when there is more usage, their children are harder to manage, cranky and disruptive. Most parents admit, that at least once per week, children receive more than one hour of screen time as parents are having alone time or spending time together. 17% track their children’s screen time precisely with a timer or another mechanism while the rest just gauge it generally. 8% have scheduled times that the Internet shuts off using technology.

Elementary schoolers: It becomes very important as a top area of concern and focus. This is the first age that stated family rules are developed, most often verbally, with 8% having them written down in some way. This also starts the period where there is concern and focus on how much time, where devices are kept at night and necessary content restriction software. Exposure to extreme content like porn and violence is also a big worry. Lastly, children as young as 7 and 8 years old are now getting limited or fully functioning phones. 11% of parents allow their child to own a phone at 7 years old. Many have kids at that age with friends who have started getting phones or have heard of other children getting phones at that age. Most parents seem very dismayed and concerned by this trend. Although most have heard of the “Wait Until 8th” campaign, few have waited until 8th grade to allow their child to have a phone. This is mostly due to peer pressure and the need to communicate as they’re not always together.

Middle schoolers: It’s a top topic of focus as 82% reported their child having a phone by 6th grade, 87% by 7th grade and 93% by 8th grade. Social media starts to come into play in a significant way, but only 23% reported allowing their kid to have their own accounts. YouTube is watched often and Instagram and Facebook are observed with a parent or through a parent’s account. 92% of parents actively monitor Internet use either by looking at search and browse histories or logging into their child’s accounts and reading messages. 16% are using a monitoring software of some sort specifically for that purpose. 81% restrict Internet sites through parental controls in some way by this age and 19% control active and shutdown times of the Internet for devices in the home. Fortnite and Minecraft are huge areas of concern for parents at this age, especially with those who have boys. Parents consistently report feeling concerned and frustrated by the inability or lack of desire for kids to go outside and play with other kids in the neighborhood because they are playing with them on the games concurrently from their separate homes.

Highschooler: Most parents stop monitoring behaviors as actively by the time children reach high school. Almost all kids have phones. 33% have their own social media accounts by the start of high school but 73% having their own accounts by the time they graduate. The big focus is on social media and how their kids interact with and treat each other online. There is as much concern over what their kids experience directly as there is over what other kids will expose them to. Porn and online sexual predators is a major concern as well as bullying and self image being affected. YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are the major platforms that are used in that order. Gaming is still a concern but not as much as middle school, as they have the ability to travel more independently and greater access to a variety of things without direct parental oversight.

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