Parents Average 9-Plus Hours of Daily Screen Time

Parents of tweens and teens are similarly wedded to their screens, a new study confirms.

"The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents," which is being released today by Common Sense Media, found that, on average, those parents spend more than nine hours (9:22) with screen-based media each day. That includes time spent for work, but 82% of the time spent (7:43) is for personal use.

More than 3/4 of the respondents (78%) said they believe they are good media and technology role models for their children.

Of the 7-plus hours of personal time the parents spent for personal use, the biggest single biggest chunk of time (3:17) was spent viewing TV, movies and videos accessed over whatever technology was used (broadcast, cable, satellite, online, DVDs).

That was followed by gaming (1:30), social networking (1:06), Web browsing (0:51) and using an e-reader (0:15).

The age-old ("our house" versus "my Stuff!") debate between parents and kids over privacy definitely extends to online activity.

The vast majority of parents (85%) said that monitoring their children's media use is important, and 41% of parents said that they have checked the content of their children's devices and social media accounts either always or some of the time, while another 21% said they did so some of the time.

Most parents also said they had rules for their children's media watching, such as no mobile devices at mealtimes (78%) or after bedtime (63%).

The parents had concerns about their kids media use, including 43% who were concerned they were spending too much time online, 38% concerned about "over-sharing" personal information and 36% concerned about potential exposure to violent and pornographic images. Also on the list of worries were hurtful comments (34%), sexting (33%), exposure to drug and alcohol use (32%), consumerism (30%) and losing the ability to communicate well (27%).

But those concerns notwithstanding, the parents had a generally positive view of technology in many ways, perhaps not surprising given their own heavy diet of bits and bytes. The majority said that technology helps kids do schoolwork (94%), prepare to join the 21st Century workforce (98%), learn new skills (88%), use their creativity (79%), expose them to other cultures (77%), enable them to express opinions and beliefs (75%), find friends (69%), and build social skills (54%).

The report is based on a survey of 1,786 parents of children 8-18 living in the United States. It was conducted July 8-25, 2016. Common Sense Media defined parents' media screen time as including "watching TV, movies, and videos; playing video games; listening to music; using social media; reading either print or electronic books; and using digital devices for other purposes, such as browsing websites, playing games or any other activity." The survey also included questions about computer, smartphone and tablet use for work purposes.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.