What I learned from 100 parents surveyed about screen time

I recently worked with Carisa of Digital Storytime on a survey about media use in the home. We wanted to understand how other families are managing screen time to get discussions going about best practices. The results from 100 parents are posted on Carisa’s blog: Strategies for a Balanced Media Diet. Thanks to all of the parents who filled out the survey. I learned a lot from reading the data, and wrote this blog post to share my impressions.

A few parents said they didn’t feel qualified to give advice about tips for balanced media use in the home. While I respect the inclination to be modest, I think opinions from parents on the front lines are a very valuable source of information.

For example, here are a few themes that caught my attention:

One of the most valuable things I can do is spend time with my kids.

Historically I’ve advocated for “media limits”. But of the top five strategies parents use regarding media in the home, “participation” was ranked higher than “limits”.  What does this tell me? Have I been focusing too much energy on the clock? Maybe it reminds me that regardless of the rules I set up for media use, the “time” that really counts is the time I’m participating with them.

Be motivated to do cool stuff.

Many parents commented that having plenty of activities around is key to curbing “too much screentime”. Arts and crafts, trips to museums and libraries, or outdoor activities all play a role in family life. Having those options available for kids and adults to enjoy can be a natural way to balance the home. But nothing will happen if I, the mom, am too tired to pull it off. I’ve got to be motivated, and energized, to go out and do cool stuff.

Pay attention to the programming.

Responses about what changes parents would like to see in the media landscape were loud and clear: “LESS CRAPPY CONTENT; LIMITED COMMERCIALS; LESS ADVERTISING DIRECTED TOWARDS CHILDREN”. I think we’re all sick of it, because everyone seemed to be on the same page. Violence, social media, privacy…these all seem to be concerning to parents. In contrast, parents seem to be appreciative of “fun educational games with good clean values and role models”. Paying attention to content is increasingly important now that anyone can publish anything anywhere at any time.

Just a note…

My kids are growing up right along with yours. At ages seven and nine, the girls are moving beyond the little kids apps, and are more curious about how to send an email or Facetime a faraway friend. I often think about how I’m going to manage once they are more independent.  One thing I know, is that I have a great community to learn from.

4 thoughts on “What I learned from 100 parents surveyed about screen time”

  1. Thank you for this post. I saw the report in Digital Storytime, really impressed with the amount of valuable info. I particularly like this post, which gives a condensed take from a mom’s perspective.

    Great work! We need more 411 like of this quality and care.

  2. Wonderful comments & summation of the data so far, Lorraine! Looking at this list of 100 responses had a ‘galvanizing’ effect on me, reminding me to focus less on managing my child’s time & more on spending time with him. I still struggle hardily with ‘modeling’ but find myself postponing even my work-related social media time to hours when my child is either at school or asleep.

    I’m not sure if hiding my over-the-top involvement with an online world is the best solution, but it does say something about how I feel about it in general. It makes me ask the question, “Why I am compelled to ‘hide’ this behavior (just like ‘junk’ foods my child isn’t allowed) when he isn’t around?”

    Of course, that’s a whole other blog post in and of itself!

    Carisa

  3. @Leslie thank you for tuning in and taking the time to read a comment. As with any blog post, I wonder how my tone is perceived – and am glad to know you understand the spirit in which it is written.

    @Carisa – the instincts that we are both feeling, about being aware of our online time in front of our kids, I believe are healthy instincts. When my husband has his nose in the newspaper and I’m asking him a question and he doesn’t answer, I feel ignored. Likewise, if I’m at my computer without giving my kids Forewarning, and they ask a question and I put off the answer, what message is that giving to them… So what I’ve done is clearly to clearly let my kids know in advance when I need to work. Let’s say, for example, that most afternoons I get to be with them when they are home from school. But one afternoon I need to work on this post. When I am driving them home from school, I say, “I’m going to need to spend an hour on the computer to finish something up while you are doing homework – so let’s all have some quiet time”. That helps me manage my time and focus and be honest on what I need to do. My default is to stay engaged with them when I’m with them. When I know I can’t be engaged for some reason, I let them know. So far, it’s working well.

  4. Thanks for the interesting info.

    My thoughts on monitoring kid’s safety online are to require them to provide me passwords to their online accounts. I wonder how many other parents are doing that?

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