More than Half of U.S. Kids are Addicted to Technology, Poll Finds

kid with phone
Technology & Health

Walk through any mall and you’ll see kids nearly walking into vendors and walls as they stare at their phones. Teens love technology, no doubt about it, but more than 50% admit they’re addicted to it.

This is an actual finding of a poll of 1,240 parents and children by Common Sense Media, a non-profit group which focuses on the effects of media and technology and children. About 59% of parents with children between the ages of 12 and 18 said their kids can’t give up their phones.

Study: Average Attention Span Now 8 Seconds – Lower than a Goldfish

The findings highlight the tension that dependence on technology can cause in the lives of kids and their families, including disruption to driving and homework.

Approximately 1/3 of parents said they argue daily about screen use. Said Common Sense Media founder James Steyer:

“It is causing daily conflict in homes.”

A separate review of available data on Internet and technology use cited concerns for problematic media, Reuters reports. It’s not just that it’s annoying to watch your kids ignore you when you’re trying to talk to them because they’re engrossed in Snapchat; multi-tasking can hinder kids’ ability to form memories, and the lack of human interaction can prevent youngsters from developing empathy, Common Sense Media found.

High percentages of teens admitted they watched TV, used social media, and texted while doing homework.

The group found that many pre-teens and teens spend as much time consuming technology as they do (or should) sleeping; U.S. children between ages 8 and 12 reported spending nearly 6 hours a day using media, while teens between ages 13 and 18 said they spend up to 9 hours a day doing so.

Part of the problem, it seems, is that many parents are setting a poor example for their kids. Some 27% of parents admitted that they, too, are addicted to technology. Steyer said:

“Digital devices have transformed people’s lives. They are changing everything from parent-child relationships, to human interaction, to our ability to focus on the task at hand. And particularly for young people who are growing up as digital natives. It has public health concerns.”

Of the parents polled, 48% said they felt that they needed to answer e-mails and texts immediately, with 72% of children saying they need to do the same. Another 69% of parents said they check their devices hourly, while 78% of teens said they do.

The report also found that of the parents surveyed, 77% feel teens get distracted by devices and don’t pay attention when they are together, and 41% of teens say the same about their parents. 

Another scary finding of the poll: 56% of parents admit to using devices while driving – with kids in the car – and 51% of teens said they’d seen their parents checking mobile devices while driving.

Parents and teens alike recognize they have a problem with too much screen time, too. About half of parents and 1/3 of teens surveyed said they’d tried, either very often or occasionally, to cut down on the amount of time they spent on their devices, with 52% of teens agreeing that they spend too much time on their mobile devices.

Read: Teens that Spend 2 Hours Doing This Have a Higher Rate of Mental Health Problems

November 2013
November 2013 Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

In a statement, Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development, said parents should absolutely be concerned about the poll’s results, but said the report raises important issues:

“It is a good thing that parents and educators are focused on kids’ social and emotional learning and asking the right questions — many of which we don’t know the answers to yet. We need to devote more time and research to understanding the impact of media use on our kids and then adjust our behavior accordingly.” [1]

Common Sense Media offered a few tips to help parents cope with children who have become dependent on technology:

“Declare tech-free zones and times. As with most things, boundaries are good. Support your kids in trying to find balance and set limits. These rules could be as simple as no phones at dinner or no texting after 9 p.m.

Check the ratings. Choose age-appropriate high quality media and technology for your family. These things can be especially beneficial when used to form deeper relationships, allow for creativity and exploration. Encourage kids to be creative, responsible consumers, not just passive users.

Talk about it. Connect with your kids and support learning by talking about what they’re seeing, reading and playing. Encourage kids to question and consider media messages to better understand the role media plays in their own lives.

Help kids understand the effects of multitasking. As parents, we know that helping kids stay focused will only strengthen interpersonal skills and school performance. Encourage them to minimize distractions and manage one task at a time, shutting down social media while working online for homework or engaging in a conversation.

Walk the walk. Put your devices away while driving, at meal times and during family time. Parent role-modeling shows kids the behavior and values you want in your home. Kids will be more open and willing participants when the house rules apply to you, too.

Seek expert help if needed. If you observe significant negative issues with your kids’ use of media and technology (for example: It’s harming their mental health, disrupting their relationships or hurting their academic performance) and you don’t feel equipped to address it yourself, consult your pediatrician, a psychologist, a social worker or another professional for advice.” [2]


[1] Boston Globe

[2] The Washington Post

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services