There is a new survey out this week by Common Sense Media that takes a fresh look at teen and tween media use, and it is getting a lot of press. The survey used a large sample of 2,600 subjects between 8 and 18 years of age, and parsed the responses between tweens (8-12 years old) and teens (13-18 years old).
Most articles that we’ve seen are focused on how much time young people are spending online, and indeed it is a large number. Not surprisingly, TV does not dominate the total any more. Tweens spend almost 6 hours per day on media, 2:26 of that on TV; teens spend almost 9 hours per day on media, 2:38 of that on TV.
You might have noticed of late that strict rules governing how much (how little) time young people should be allowed online/using media seem to be loosening up. In September, the American Academy of Pediatrics had the following to say:
“In a world where “screen time” is becoming simply “time”, our policies must evolve or become obsolete…Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits.”
What is reasonable will differ by parent and child, some experts are no longer advocating a strict, set limit of one or two hours per day on media. The times have changed.
What did the teens and tweens in the survey have to say about the parental guidance they get and rules they are governed by?
When asked, the teens in the survey indicated that parents are more concerned with what type of media teens/tweens are viewing than how much time they spend on it:
- 72% of tweens say their parents have rules about screen time, 53% of teens say they have rules
- 84% of tweens’ parents have rules about what kind of content they can interact with; 66% of teens have rules on permissible content
- 25 percent of online teens say their parents know either “a little” or “nothing” about what they do online
- 30 percent say their parents know either “a little” or “nothing” what they do on social media
Assuming the teens and tweens are accurately describing their situation, there are a few conclusions to be drawn about the current state of digital parenting. Focusing on the teens:
- 47% of teens have no rules about how much time they spend online
- 34% of parents don’t care what content their teens are viewing or interacting with. The number is better, but “no opinion” seems like a less than perfect parenting stance
- One third to one quarter of parents have little or no idea what is going on online or on social media
Is all of that true? It’s tough to say – the parents’ responses might differ. There are frequently big gaps between what teens think is going on and what parents think.
We do worry that many parents have adopted a “don’t ask don’t tell” mentality, possibly because knowing what is going on is terrifying, possibly for other reasons. There is clearly some risk in that. First, multitasking is difficult, and homework, family and activities deserve some dedicated time. Second, you want to be sure that your teen is staying safe and being “good”. Third, what gets posted or shared online could impact future college admission decisions or job opportunities.
If you’re in the don’t ask, don’t tell camp because of the following:
- You don’t have time
- You don’t know where to start
- You’re “sure” there’s nothing bad going on
- You’re worried about your teen’s privacy
We can help. Starting as low as $49, we can give you a full Social Score for your teen, telling you exactly what you might want to be focused on, and where the problem areas may be lurking. You can learn more or sign up here.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.
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