Parents and Teens Talk Mobile Device Use

A new, cross-cultural study uncovers both conflict and optimism about the impact of mobile devices on family life across the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Common Sense Media
Thursday, September 27, 2018

Los Angeles, CA – Mobile devices are rewiring the way parents and teens connect with one another in many countries across the globe. As part of an ongoing and global mapping project designed to understand the effects of these devices on parent-teen relationships, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and Common Sense Media today released a report titled The New Normal: Parents, Teens, and Mobile Devices in the United Kingdom.

Based on a comprehensive survey conducted in June 2018 of more than 1,200 teens and parents across the U.K., the study explores mobile device use and media engagement among parents and teens and compares the responses with existing data from both Japan and the United States.

The results indicate U.K. teens and parents feel mobile devices are daily distractions in family life and, for some, an emerging source of conflict. Parents and teens both said they "feel addicted" to their devices, with 27 percent of parents and 48 percent of teens reporting that they check their devices within five minutes of waking up each day. Those concerns sit alongside feelings of optimism about the benefits of mobile technology.

"At this moment, when it seems that every personal interaction involves a mobile device, we need to dig deeper into the media habits and attitudes of parents and teens," said USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay. "With this latest report, we hope to offer timely and thoughtful analysis that will spark a new wave of global interest, research, and conversation."

The new study compares the U.K. data set with a similar survey conducted in Japan in 2017 and with 2016 U.S. data from Common Sense Media on digital device use among families. A comparative analysis shows that more U.K. parents feel addicted to their devices than parents in the U.S. (46 percent vs. 27 percent). In addition, teens in the U.K. are much less concerned than their American counterparts about spending too much time on their devices. More American parents and teens reported arguing daily about mobile device use than did families in the U.K. and Japan. Yet, the majority of parents and teens in the U.K., the U.S., and Japan feel that teens' use of mobile devices has had no effect on parent-teen relationships.

Despite reporting some conflict over device use, parents and teens in the three countries expressed optimism about the benefits of these new tools, including learning technological skills needed in high school or college.

"We know that parents, caregivers, health care practitioners, and educators are increasingly concerned about the impact device use has on children's social, emotional, and cognitive well-being," said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. "This research contributes invaluably to our understanding of how to maximize the positive aspects of technology at home and in school and minimize the downsides."

"As we continue our global mapping study across new countries and continents, we hope to advance the conversation by grounding it in new data and by continuing to compare it across countries and cultures," Bay said. "As we have done with this latest work, we will adapt our questions to reflect our growing understanding of the impact of these new technologies and add new ones as we expose additional lines of inquiry."

About Common Sense Media

Common Sense is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. For more information, visit

About the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a global leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy, and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,200 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, master's, and bachelor's degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals across a broad scope of academic inquiry.


For more information, please contact:

Ted B. Kissell
USC Annenberg
(213) 740-6302
[email protected]

Colby Zintl
Common Sense Media
(415) 732-9944
[email protected]