Are Your Parents Addicted to Their Phones?

Are Your Parents Addicted to Their Phones?

You’ve been on that device for hours. … Ugh, could you look up every once in a while? Put that phone down, now!

Have these words ever been uttered in your home? If yes, who said them, you or your parents?

In “Your Kids Think You’re Addicted to Your Phone,” Niraj Chokshi writes about a new report from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit children’s advocacy and media ratings organization, about families and the use of mobile devices, based on surveys of 500 pairs of parents and teenagers.

Here are a few of the report’s key findings:

Bleary-eyed moms, dads and teenagers are everywhere.

The findings that Mr. Steyer and the report’s author, Michael Robb, said were most worrying related to how parents and teenagers allow mobile devices to interfere with sleep.

“That’s important because we know that healthy sleep is associated with a range of positive outcomes and poor sleep is related to a range of negative outcomes,” said Mr. Robb, the senior director of research for Common Sense Media.

According to the survey, conducted online and by phone in February and March, 26 percent of parents said they used a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, within five minutes of going to sleep. The same share acknowledged waking up to check the device at least once during the night, while a slightly smaller share, 23 percent, said they used a device within five minutes of waking up.

The rates were higher among teenagers: 40 percent said they used a device within five minutes of going to sleep; 36 percent admitted to waking up to check a device; and 32 percent said they used a device within five minutes of waking up.

But their worries are different.

Curiously, Common Sense Media found that while parents feel increasingly glued to their phones, attitudes among teenagers moved in the opposite direction.

“It’s interesting and it’s unexpected,” Mr. Robb said.

This year, for example, 52 percent of parents said they spent too much time on mobile devices, nearly twice as many as in 2016. Among teenagers, only 39 percent said they spent too much time on the devices, a steep decline from 61 percent.

The share of parents who felt “addicted” to their devices rose to 45 percent from 27 percent, while the share of teenagers who said the same fell to 39 percent from 50 percent.

Everyone is arguing less. (After all, there are more Facebook and TikTok posts to scroll through.)

One of the strangest findings of the survey, according to Mr. Robb, was that parents and teenagers were more worried about each other’s use, yet arguing about it less.

Today, about four in 10 teenagers believe their parents are addicted to or spend too much time on their mobile devices, the survey found. Among parents, six in 10 worry about their children being addicted to their phones and seven in 10 say their children spend too much time on the devices.

For both groups, though, the share who reported arguing daily over how the other uses mobile devices fell from about a third to about a fifth.

“Both kids and parents are arguing less, but at the same time they are feeling that the other is more distracted,” Mr. Robb said. “It’s a really weird finding.”

The article concludes:

There is some hope, though: About two-thirds of parents said they had family rules governing the use of mobile devices, according to the survey findings.

“We’ve been saying for years at Common Sense that you need to have ‘sacred spaces,’” Mr. Steyer said. “There are times and places where phones, in particular, but all digital platforms should not be there. The bedroom is the obvious one.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

— Are your parents addicted to their phones? If yes, how concerned are you about phone use and abuse in your family?

— How much time do your parents spend on mobile devices? How does that compare with your own personal use? How does your parents’ phone use affect your family’s relationships and overall quality of life? What do you think you and your parents could be doing if they put down the phone more often?

— How often do you and your parents argue over the use of mobile devices? Whose use is in question during these arguments — yours or theirs? What is the outcome of these arguments?

— Which finding in the Common Sense Media report did you find most interesting, surprising or provocative? How does your family’s attitudes toward phone use compare with those in the report?

— Does your family have rules about the use of mobile devices? What are they? Do they apply to your parents? What new rules would you like to see adopted in your family to guide how your parents use their phones? How likely are your parents to follow them?

Further Resources:

Is Your Phone Love Hurting Your Relationships?

Could You Go a Year Without a Smartphone?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.