Study Shows Technology Causes Conflict Between Parents and Teens, But it Can Be Avoided

The rise of digital technology causes conflict between parents and teens, according to a new study. Surprisingly, both sides claim the other spends too much time on their devices. With many teens and parents admitting to arguing daily over cell phone use, it leaves one to wonder what can be done?

The Study

A study of 1,200 parents and their children aged 13 to 17 conducted by US-based Common Sense Media and University of Southern California (USC) provides some insight into the conflict that sometimes occurs between parents and kids over mobile phone usage.

Half of teenagers and their parents admit they are distracted by their phones everyday and the same percentage say they feel “addicted” to their devices. Meal times and conversations between teens and their parents are often disrupted by their phones and according to the study they are both causing the disruptions.

In the study 66% of the parents said they feel their teens spent too much time on their devices and 29% of the teens surveyed said their parents spent too much time on their devices as well.

Almost two-thirds of families studied say they have rules on the use of phones including bans at the dinner table and when it’s time for bed. However, 7 out of 10 said the rules were broken with almost 20 % saying the rules were broken by the parents and not the teens.

A lot of the parents and teens surveyed admit they check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up and even more checking it within a half hour. More than a quarter of parents (27 percent) and almost half of teenagers (48 percent) said they checked their devices within five minutes of waking up.

What can be done?

Willow Bay, dean at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said that while there was conflict, parents and children also saw benefits in the technology that could enhance relations.

“We have to find a way to integrate them into our lives and the lives of our children. This is the first generation of parents immersed in the technology but also helping their teenagers manage mobile devices and social media,” she said.

While the study shows technology causes conflict, it does not mean it must cause conflict. When phones were first invented, many felt they should only be used for business. Some feared it would interfere with face-to-face interactions. Some wondered if it was good for them and if it was a lesser form of communication.

New technologies cause conflict because they are new and if you grew up without it, then you may be wary of it. However, I dare say we all agree now that the telephone is beneficial to relationships and life overall. 

When it comes to new mobile devices, try approaching it with positivity and curiosity. Work together with your children to decide how you will use these new devices. How can they improve your life? Help serve others? Help you learn and grow? Be deliberate with your digital use. At the same time, be smart. Be knowledgeable of the dangers online. However, do not let fear control how you use technology. As Devorah Heitner says, “Empathy is the App.”

Top Tips for Parents

  1. Talk together about the time you spend online. Work together with your kids to decide how you will use your devices for good.
  2. Agree on a routine and appropriate length of time you both can be online.
  3. Put in place a family agreement to set the boundaries – don’t break them!
  4. Use technology and apps like BT’s Whole Home Wi-Fi to manage screen time and Wi-Fi access, especially at bedtimes.
  5. Get the whole family to unplug and create ‘screen-free zones.’
  6. Set a good example with your own device use.

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