Thanks to digital devices, 4 in 5 parents think raising kids harder than ever before

NEW YORK — Parents may have it harder in 2021 than ever before. A new poll finds four in five American parents agree it’s harder to raise children today than when they were growing up.

The survey polled 2,000 American parents with school-aged children to see how they handle their kids in today’s digital age. Eight in 10 agree parenting is more challenging than 30 years ago due to the role technology plays in our everyday lives. Eighty-six percent of parents also agree that kids “grow up” much faster today thanks to tech.

Kids these days…

Parenting Tech EffectThe average parent gives their kids their first internet-connected device at just seven years-old. Just under a quarter of respondents (23%) add they gave their child access to the web between the ages of three and five.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Smith Micro Software, the survey finds that kids are spending an average of 43 percent of their free time on some type of internet-connected device – and the COVID-19 pandemic may have exasperated it.

Four in five parents admit they’ve allowed their kids to have more screen time to stay entertained due to the limits imposed on them due to the pandemic. In fact, four in 10 parents say their kid racks up five or more hours of entertainment-related screen time every day.

To help prepare them for the potential dangers lurking on the internet, 86 percent of parents talk to their kids regularly about their online safety – and with good reason. When asked what is most worrisome regarding their child’s well-being, 31 percent of parents cite physical safety while nearly the same number (30%) say their child’s online safety worries them the most.

Nearly nine in 10 (88%) agree that it’s their responsibility to monitor or control their child’s online activity. Interestingly, more than half the poll (54%) agree that it’s a violation of their child’s trust to monitor, track, or control their online activity.

How are parents keeping kids safe online?

The top concerns when it comes to a child’s online safety includes negative or dangerous interactions on social media (55%) and viewing inappropriate content (54%). Surprisingly, a much lower proportion of parents cited cyberbullying (38%) and playing violent video games (23%) as concerning.

Parenting Tech EffectSeventy-one percent of parents say their kids challenge them and say they know more about online safety than they do. With these challenges come disagreements about their online presence, and the top argument is how much time their kids are online.

“Digital platforms empower today’s children to craft unique identities and worldviews independent of their parent’s influence at a much younger age,” says William W. Smith Jr., President and CEO of Smith Micro Software, in a statement. “For parents, this loss of control can be very scary.

Fifty-five percent of parents admit to arguing with their child over how much time they’re spending online. Just under half (47%) add they have spats with their kids about what they’re doing online. Forty-two percent say their kid’s smartphone usage frequently causes arguments, while only 32 percent cite their child’s data privacy as a bone of contention.

To keep their kids safe online, parents rely on a variety of digital parenting techniques and technologies. Forty-three percent employ a family media plan to manage screen time limits and media consumption. The same percentage impose daily limits to proactively manage screen time.

Other safety measures parents rely on include parental control software (42%), content filters (39%), and even designated screen-free zones around the house (36%).

“The results of our survey indicate that a sizable proportion of American parents regularly use digital parenting technology to keep their kids safe online,” Smith adds. “These tools are now mainstream – with 92 percent of parents saying they appreciate the value it adds to their daily routines.”

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