New Report: Parents Spend More Than Nine Hours a Day with Screen Media

Common Sense Census Finds Contradiction: While Using Media Heavily Throughout the Day, Parents Overwhelmingly Believe They Are Good Role Models for Kids

Common Sense Media
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO – The findings of a first-of-its-kind study released today by Common Sense show that parents spend more than nine hours (9:22) a day with screen media, with the vast majority of that time being spent with personal screen media (7:43) and only a little more than 90 minutes devoted to work screen media. The vast majority of these parents (78 percent) believe they are good media use role models for their kids. Meanwhile, many parents are concerned about their children's social media use and other online activities, including thinking that their children may become addicted to technology (56 percent) and that technology use negatively impacts their children's sleep (34 percent).

"These findings are fascinating because parents are using media for entertainment just as much as their kids, yet they express concerns about their kids' media use while also believing that they are good role models for their kids," said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. "Media can add a lot of value to relationships, education, and development, and parents clearly see the benefits, but if they are concerned about too much media in their kids' lives, it might be time to reassess their own behavior so that they can truly set the example they want for their kids."

The study, the Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens, finds significant differences in media use by population. Nearly two-thirds of Hispanic and African-American parents (66 percent and 65 percent, respectively) are highly aware of the content their children see or hear when using media, compared to half of white parents (51 percent). Hispanic parents are also more concerned about technology addiction (63 percent vs. 55 percent) and the impact of technology on their children's sleep (43 percent vs. 30 percent).

"Latino parents use more media, are more engaged in children's media use, and are two to three times more concerned about their children being online," said Maria Alvarez, director of Latino content and outreach at Common Sense. "Common Sense has developed excellent tools and resources to help parents and communities address these concerns in a way that helps kids get the most out of technology while avoiding the perils."

Other key findings:

  • SOCIAL MEDIA: Fifty percent of parents indicate that they thought using social media hurts children's physical activity.
  • INTERNET USE: Parents are "moderately" or "extremely" worried about kids spending too much time online (43 percent), over-sharing personal details (38 percent), accessing online pornography (36 percent), and being exposed to images or videos of violence (36 percent).
  • MONITORING KIDS: Two-thirds (67 percent) of parents say that monitoring child media use is more important than respecting their children's privacy.
  • RULES: A majority of parents report that mobile devices are not allowed during family meals (78 percent) or bedtime (63 percent).
  • ETHNICITY: African-American parents (10:37) spend about an hour and a half more with personal screen media than Hispanic parents (8:52), who spend about two and a half hours more with personal screen media than white parents (6:38).
  • INCOME: Parents from lower-income households spend more time with personal screen media (9:15) than middle-income parents (7:42), who spend more time than higher-income parents (6:41).
  • EDUCATION: Parents with a high school degree or less spend the most time with personal screen media (9:03), as compared with parents with at least some college (7:41), who spend more time than parents with an undergraduate degree or higher (6:10).
  • POSITIVE VIEWS: Parents largely have positive attitudes about the role of technology in their children's education, learning, and development of important skills. They agree that technology positively supports schoolwork and education (94 percent), feel that technology supports the acquisition of new skills (88 percent), and feel that technology prepares kids for 21st-century jobs (89 percent).

"Children are great mimics, which is why it is so important that parents introduce real boundaries and balance early on," said Steyer. "Media will always be a part of life, and every family is different, but in general, we recommend that parents set rules and clear plans so that kids understand what is appropriate."

Common Sense recently launched a multiyear national media campaign, #DeviceFreeDinner (#CenarSinCelular in Spanish), to encourage families to stop using their mobile devices at the dinner table. Thousands of people have taken the #DeviceFreeDinner challenge, and new campaign ads will be unveiled heading into the holiday season, when families spend more quality time around the dinner table together. In addition, Common Sense Education's Digital Citizenship Curriculum, which provides educators with lesson plans for kids on subjects including privacy, media literacy, cyberbullying, sexting, and digital footprints, is currently being used in close to 93,000 schools around the country. For more tools and resources to manage media use, visit

Methodology: This report is based on a nationally representative survey of 1,786 parents of children age 8 to 18 living in the United States and was conducted from July 8, 2016, to July 25, 2016. The survey was administered by GfK using their KnowledgePanel©, a probability-based web panel designed to be representative of the United States. The use of a probability sample means the results are substantially more generalizable to the U.S. population than are results based on "convenience" samples.

About Common Sense
Common Sense is the nation's leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a powerful voice for kids and families in the 21st century. Millions of families, educators, and policymakers turn to Common Sense every day to access our independent ratings, unbiased research, and trusted tools and advice to help navigate a rapidly changing digital landscape at home and at school. Learn more at


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