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Survey: Teens Feel Addicted to Mobile Devices

Common Sense, which provides content ratings and reviews for major media companies, and which has been a strong voice for boosting broadband connectivity for kids in schools and libraries, says a new report finds teens feel addicted to their phones and tablets, and parents agree.

The findings were released Tuesday and combine an internal white paper and an outside study contracted by Common Sense. The goal is to promote a conversation about media use and technology and the impact on families.

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According to a poll of 1,240 parents and kids (620 of each from the same households), one out of two teens said they feel addicted to their devices, and almost 6 out of 10 (59%) of their parents feel that way.

“Mobile devices are fundamentally changing how families go about day-to-day life, be it homework, driving or having dinner together,” said James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense, of the new report. “What we’ve discovered is that kids and parents feel addicted to their mobile devices, that it is causing daily conflict in homes, and that families are concerned about the consequences. We also know that problematic media use can negatively affect children’s development and that multi-tasking can harm learning and performance. As a society we all have a responsibility to take media use and addiction seriously and make sure parents have the information to help them make smart choices for their families.”

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More than three quarters of teens (78%) said they checked their phones hourly — 72% of teens said they felt the need to immediately respond to texts, social networking messages, and other notifications — while 36% of teens and 32% of their parents estimated that they argue with each other at least daily about device use.

And more than half the parents do not get high marks for model behavior if the "mobile use while driving" question is any indication.

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According to the survey, 56% of parents admitted to checking mobile devices while driving, and over half of the teens (51%) said they had seen their parents do so.

The white paper was a study of existing research released in conjunction with the study.

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Among the conclusions from that study of studies was that "multitasking, toggling between multiple screens or between screens and people - which is common for kids doing homework or socializing - impairs their ability to lay down memories, to learn, and to work effectively" and can "harm face-to-face conversation, and undermine the development of empathy."

The report and study were a follow-up to a Common Sense study last November that found that teens use an average of nine hours of media per day. Common Sense is holding a free webinar for parents May 19 on balancing media use.

The survey was a nationally representative telephone poll conducted by Lake Research Partners Feb. 16 - March 14, 2016. The 620 parents were of 620 kids ages 12-18 living at home where both parents and children used a mobile device. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4%.