Authored by: Anne Schmidt, Prevention/Outreach Case Management Supervisor
One of the primary concerns that many parents have is how much “screen time” their children use. Children of all ages spend lots of time in front of screens: television, phones, computers, tablets etc. Parents may spend a great deal of time worrying about how much time their children are spending on screens and media, they may not be aware of how much time they, as parents, are spending on screens and media.
Recently, a group called Common Sense Media along with the Center on Media and Human Development at Northwestern University, conducted a study of over 1,700 parents with children ages 8-18 about their children’s media use, but also the media use of the parents. You can find the full study and all the statistics here.
What the study found was very interesting. The survey found that on average parents with children ages 8-18 spend 9 hours using screens. 82% of that screen time is for personal use like watching television, using social networking sites, or playing video games. Only one of the 9 hours of screen time was used for work.
Another finding is that 78% of parents believe they are modeling an appropriate amount of screen time for their kids. This finding seems to indicate that parents are not aware of how much time they spend using screens, because it’s unlikely they want their children using screens for 9 hours each day.
43% of parents in the study report that they are concerned that their children spend too much time online and that all this time online could be harming their child’s sleep. The good news is that the study found that most of the parents are monitoring their children’s social media accounts and that they recognize that monitoring those are more important than respecting their child’s privacy.
In the study, 60% of Hispanic parents indicated they are concerned about their children spending time online, while 37% of white parents and 33% of black parents said they were worried.
Technology is certainly important and it is here to stay. Most kids use computers and tablets in school and access the internet regularly for reports and projects. In an article published in the Washington Times about this Common Sense survey, James P. Steyer, the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media gave some guidelines for how to help with your children’s media use:
• Be a good role model. When your kids are around, you need to use media and screen time the way you would like them to use it.
• Set aside designated times when media devices are not allowed. These could include family dinners, before bed, and while driving. His group started a #DeviceFreeDinner challenge.
• Use media together with your kids and use it to address uncomfortable topics such as sex and drugs.
Using media as a family can be a great way to bring up topics you would like to discuss and it’s also a chance to get to know your children better. At Salt Lake County Youth Services we offer a Strengthening Families class that is designed to help parents and their 13-17 teenagers learn to improve communication, eat dinner together, and improve family relationships.
We have an upcoming class that starts on January 31st. If you would like to know more about the classes call Anne Schmidt at 385-468-4528. If you need more information about the agency please see our website at http://slco.org/youth/ or call our main number to learn more about the services we offer 385-468-4500