A portion of parents concerned about the time their teens spend on screens often do nothing to limit that time, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.
According to the study, 65 percent of parents of teens ages 13 to 17 say they worry to some extent about their kids spending too much time in front of screens. But only 57 percent of parents report setting any sort of time restrictions.
Most parents said their teenager is at least sometimes distracted by his or her phone when they try to have a conversation with them. But moms and dads may need to look in the mirror, because a little more than half of teens reported the same thing happens whey they try to have a conversation with their parents.
While 36 percent of moms and dads admitted to the Pew Research Center that they spend too much time on their phones, a little more than half of teenagers admitted to the same. One wonders whether more teenagers than parents in fact spend too much time on their phones, or whether teens are simply more quick to recognize their error. Of course, with all survey-based information, the question of underreporting and over-reporting also comes into play.
Almost the same percentage of teenagers who reported they are worried they spend too much time on their phones said they’ve taken steps to cut back. Parents weren’t asked whether they were doing anything to cut back, but it’s interesting to guess what their answers would be.
Parts of this survey make it appear as if teens and parents recognize there is a problem, but are of the opinion that the problem doesn’t lie with them. Remember, only 54 percent of teens admitted they are worried they personally spend too much time on their phones, but roughly nine in 10 teens reported that spending too much time online is a problem facing their peers.
Many teenagers told the Pew Research Center they are limiting time spent on screens in other areas, too. 41 percent said they spend too much time on social media and 57 percent reported taking steps to cut back. 26 percent said they spend too much time playing video games and 58 percent said they’re taking steps to cut back there. No word on whether the cutting back was self-imposed or mandated by parents.
Parents may or may not be limiting screen time by taking phones away for periods of time, but a majority of teens reported that being without their phones is a downer.
I accidentally left my phone home on Saturday for a couple of hours. I couldn’t take pictures of my son’s soccer game and had to borrow my friend’s phone to call my husband and ask him to bring me a chair. I was annoyed. But 56 percent of teenagers said in the survey that without their phones, they feel at least one of these three emotions: loneliness, anxiety or being upset. But a report recently published about the psychological health of adolescents found their wellbeing decreased the more hours a week they spent on screens. The Washington Post reported that the research showed the least happy teens were those who had 20 or more hours a week of screen time. But note that teens who had between one and five hours a week of screen time were happier than teenagers with none.
So what can parents do with this information? The American Academy of Pediatrics has a website to help create a Family Media Plan. This is a great personalized tool to learn how to set tech-free areas and times in your home.
Technology can actually help set limits on itself. In recent months, Google and Apple have announced new tools for parents and individuals to help manage screen time. It's also wise to do a technology inventory of your own life. Figure out how wisely you are spending your time in front of screens. Be the type of digital citizen you expect your children to be.