Parents, are you overusing your smartphones yourselves?
A UK survey of 2,000 children aged 11-18 and 3,000 parents has revealed that it is not only parents but also children who believe that overuse of smartphones is having an adverse effect on communication at home.
The survey suggests that parents who are concerned that their children are addicted to their smartphones should put their own house in order first: 22% of the children surveyed say that the use of smartphones is undermining family relationships, while 36% say they have asked their parents to stop checking their own mobile devices.
80% of children believe smartphones should be banned at the dinner table
A lot of children report that their parents are scanning their phone screens at mealtimes, and 82% believe that mealtimes should be device-free. Interestingly, while 95% of parents claim that they do not use their mobile devices at the dinner table, an incompatible 14% of children state that their parents do engage in such behaviour – and 42.44% of them feel ignored (when they try to initiate a conversation) and feel angry or annoyed at this.
40% of parents can’t leave their smartphones alone at the weekend
There is not that much difference in the amount of time children and their parents spend online, with 43% of parents concerned that they spend too much of their own time in this way. Seventy-two percent of children spend 3-10 hours online on an average day at the weekend or during school holidays, while 11% spend 10-15 hours and 3% 16-20 hours. Meanwhile, 21% of parents spend 6-10 hours online on an average working day; and 37% spend 3-5 hours, and 5% more than 15 hours, online at the weekend.
Unexpectedly, only a minority of children think their parents are concerned about the amount of time they spend online, with 56% saying their parents are not concerned.
Conflicting views about the ill effects of Internet use
Parents and children hold different views about the downsides of excessive Internet use. While 47% of children say the biggest worry is loss of sleep, fewer than 20% of parents identify this as a problem. Parents’ biggest worry is the impact on their children’s social skills (32%), but only 10% of children share this concern. Parents are also fearful of Internet addiction (26%), but only 2% are very worried about sexting (exchanging sexual images and information), although this has been in the news a lot recently. They also display little fear about cyberbullying.
HMC conference: how to use digital devices responsibly
The survey was conducted jointly by HMC (The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference), an organisation that represents the views of affiliated independent schools (schools that receive no state funding and are funded entirely through fees), and Digital Awareness UK, one of the UK’s leading online safety organisations.
Mike Buchanan, Chair of HMC, says, “mobile devices have become an integral part of life at school, work and play and parents, teachers and pupils need to work together to rewrite the rule book.”
Emma Robertson, co-founder of Digital Awareness UK, adds, “these results are shocking. We are surprised that the biggest concern when it comes to online safety for parents is the impact technology has on their children’s social skills,” and calls on schools to increase their efforts to educate pupils in this area.
She suggests that the likely explanation for the difference in parents’ and children’s views of the downside of Internet use is that, “thousands of children we talk to in schools tell us that their parents often don’t know how much time they’re spending on their devices overnight, or what they are actually doing online.”
Whilst mobile devices, which give us easy access to all kinds of information, have made our lives more convenient, they have undermined our interactions with our families. We need to think afresh about the importance of spending time with our children.