It won’t come as a surprise to most to learn that the majority of teenagers are addicted to their mobile devices. A new report issued by Common Sense Media not only confirms this modern epidemic, but also sheds light on a lesser-known consequence of technology addiction—the detrimental effects that over-usage has on the family unit.
The Common Sense poll surveyed 1,240 parents and children from the same households (620 parents and 620 kids) and found that 50 percent of teens “feel addicted” to their mobile devices, while 59 percent of their parents agree that their kids are addicted. While these numbers are indeed high, the survey also found that over one-third of families argue about some aspect of technology use daily, causing significant tension at home.
“Mobile devices are fundamentally changing how families go about day-to-day lives, be it doing homework, driving, or having dinner together,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “What we’ve discovered is that kids and parents feel addicted to their mobile devices, that it is causing daily conflict in homes, and that families are concerned about the consequences.”
According to this latest research, 36 percent of parents and 32 percent of teens say they argue with each other on a daily basis about some aspect of device use, from driving to the dinner table. Face-to-face communication between family member is impacted as well, with 77 percent of parents reporting that their children get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they’re together at least a few times per week. The inability to remain present with one another most likely arises from the fact that 72 percent of teens and 48 percent of parents feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages, and other notifications. Not only does this problematic use impair face-to-face communication, past research has also shown that it can even undermine the development of empathy.
Mobile devices aren’t going away any time soon, so what is the modern parent supposed to do to minimize the deleterious side effects of technology addiction? Common Sense Media provides a number of free resources on their website for families struggling with an addicted teen, including downloadable family media contracts that can help families outline safe and appropriate technology use. The organization also provides preventative advice on how to ensure that teenagers don’t become addicted to technology, such as creating media-free zones and times, limiting multitasking, participating in more family activities, and engaging in screen time with children and teens. And perhaps most importantly, they also advice that parents “walk the walk” and put down their own phones every now and then.