WASHINGTON DC: Two-thirds of American parents are concerned about the amount of time their teenage children spend in front of screens, according to a new study that also has some surprising findings about the extent to which parents themselves are hooked.
The Pew Research Center survey, entitled How Parents and Teens Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions, also revealed that 72% of parents feel their teens are often distracted by their mobile phone when they are trying to have a conversation with them.
Yet half of teens (51%) say their parents are distracted by their own phones at least sometimes during conversations between them, while 14% of teens say their parents are often distracted in this way.
Pew, which questioned 743 US teens aged 13 to 17 as well as 1,058 parents of teens, further revealed that around one-third of parents (36%) say they spend too much time on their mobile phone, while a quarter (23%) say the same about their social media usage.
These concerns increase among teenagers, with more than half (54%) believing they spend too much time on their mobile phones and another 41% saying they spend too much time on social media, yet there are signs that teenagers may be better equipped at handling distraction than their parents are.
For example, 15% of parents told the Pew researchers that they often lose focus at work because they are distracted by their phone, whereas just 8% of teens experience the same problem at school.
And a similar proportion of teens (18%) and parents (20%) say they often feel as if they have to respond to messages to their devices immediately.
The gap widens when it comes to checking their phones for messages as soon as they wake up (72% of teens versus 57% of parents), but the Pew study also found evidence that many teens are taking steps to reduce their dependence.
Specifically, about half of teens (52%) say they are cutting back on the amount of time their spend on their phones, while others are trying to limit their use of social media (57%) and video games (58%).
However, despite these attempts at self-discipline, the Pew study also found that 56% of teens associate the absence of their phone with at least one of these three emotions: loneliness, being upset or feeling anxious. In addition, girls are more likely than boys to feel anxious or lonely without their phone.
Source: Pew Research Center; additional content by WARC staff