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Parents and teens probably use their phones the same amount of time, study says

Posted December 8, 2016

Teens aren’t the only ones using their phones in abundance. A new report found that parents spend almost as much time on their phones as their teens and tweens.

The report, done by the organization Common Sense, found that parents spend close to nine hours a day on their screens. Adults use their phones for their jobs at least 1.5 hours of the day. The other 7.5 hours, though, are used “doing the same kinds of things their kids do — sending texts, playing video games, watching shows, browsing websites, checking in on social media — often while at work,” according to Time magazine.

Michael Robb, the director of the research, told Time it’s “fair to say” that parents use their phones as much as their teens.

“We’re not trying to make parents feel guilty,” Robb told Time, “but we are trying to make them more aware.”

Research from Common Sense Media found that teens spend about nine hours a day on their phones, according to The Washington Post. Tweens spend closer to six hours a day.

Teens mostly use media during those nine hours, either watching videos or listening to music. This takes up about a third of a teen’s day.

Of course, the 1,786 parents interviewed for the study recognized the dangers of too much screen use.

The majority of parents (about 56 percent) expressed concerns that their teens and tweens would become addicted to their phones. About 43 percent said they were concerned their child spent too much time online and 36 percent feared their child had access to online pornography, according to the study.

But 78 percent of parents said they are good role models for their children, especially if they use digital media and tech devices.

Parents hope their children use less screen time, too, even though they don’t always resist their own phones.

“The sheer amount of media and technology in all of our lives makes it challenging for parents to monitor their own use,” Robb said, “and their kids’ use.”

Teens do use their smartphones a lot. A Pew Research Center report found that 24 percent of teens go online “almost constantly,” which is mostly due to their smartphone use. Almost 75 percent of teens have "or have access to" a smartphone, with only 30 percent having a basic phone.

In total, 91 percent of teens said they go online with their smartphones at least occasionally, with 94 percent saying they do so daily or often, according to Pew.

Experts have worked to help parents find ways to limit their teens' tech use. Medical professionals from the American Academy of Pediatrics set guidelines for how much screen time children should have, according to CNN.

For children 2 to 5, the AAP recommends one hour per day. The AAP said parents can figure out restrictions for children who are 6 and older.

"Even though the media landscape is constantly changing, some of the same parenting rules apply," Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, lead author of the "Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report,” wrote in a press release. "Parents play an important role in helping children and teens navigate the media environment, just as they help them learn how to behave offline."

Chassiakos said it’s important for parents to encourage face-to-face interactions as often as possible, since those will create “intimate bonds” for families. Chassiakos also said parents should practice “tech-free bedrooms,” forcing children to use technology and the internet in the living room, where they can be monitored.

This practice also allows parents to make sure their children do their homework rather than focus on entertainment.

But parents, especially those who use tech, can still engage with digital media with their children, she said.

"This doesn't mean you can't play video games with your kids," she said. "What's most important is that families have media-free time, and when digital media is used, it's used mainly for communication rather than entertainment."

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