Parents Average 9-Plus Hours of Screen Time

Parents of tweens and teens are similarly wedded to their screens. That is one of the big takeaways from a new study, The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents, released Tuesday by Common Sense Media.

The study found that on average those parents spend more than nine hours (9:22) with screen media each day. That includes for work, but 82% (7:43) is personal use. And those parents are OK with that as modeling behavior for their little media consumers. The study found that 78% of respondents said they  believed they were good media and technology role models for their children.

The parent media activities surveyed included "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, any other activity. We also asked about computer, smartphone, and tablet (and similar device) use for work purposes."

Of that 7:43 for personal use, the biggest single biggest chunk of time (3:17) was viewing TV, movies and videos accessed over whatever technology was used (broadcast, cable, satellite, online, DVDs).

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

The report is based on a survey of 1,786 parents of children 8-18 living in the U.S. It was conducted July 8-25, 2016.

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, say, 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 being exposed 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. Ninety-four percent said that technology helps kids with schoolwork, 98% said it helped them prepare to join a 21st Century work force, 88% said it helped them learn new skills, 79% said it supports their creativity, 77% said it helped expose them to other cultures, 75% said it allowed them to express opinions and beliefs, and 69% said it helped them find friends, and 54% said it helped them with social skills.

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.