- 98% of parents say that monitoring their kid’s social media activity is important
- 82% of parents agree that kids can become addicted to smartphones
- 62% of parents say that spanking could be okay
- 28% of parents say that spanking is necessary
- 15% of parents still think that it’s not okay for boys to play with dolls and girls to play with trucks
- 13 years old is the average age that parents think kids should have their own smartphone
- 15 years old is the average age that parents feel their kid can start using social media
- On average, parents increase their hourly limits for social media use by 30 minutes every year
A 4-Year-Old With a Facebook Account?!
We heard a story last month about our neighbor’s 4-year-old who has his own Facebook account. We were shocked. As children are being exposed to more screen time, more and more research is being conducted to discover the effects it has on our children.
Today, we’re facing challenges that our parents could have never imagined. We gave a lot of consideration in our study to technology, particularly smartphones and social media. But we were also dying to hear about hot issues like gender, diets, and discipline. Where do parents stand on these issues today?
We surveyed American parents to learn their views and how they’re managing some of the biggest parenting challenges of 2017.
You’ll be surprised to find out how participants answered our questions. Read on to learn more.
At What Age Should Your Kid Have a Smartphone?
Thirteen years old.
That is the average age that parents say their kids should have their own smartphone.
Average Age: 13 years old
In fact, the vast majority of parents (85% to be exact) said that their kid should have their own smartphone sometime between the ages of 10 and 16.
The distribution of ages that parents feel that children should have their own smartphone follows the standard “bell curve” shape that you might remember from middle school math class.
What do you feel is the appropriate age? Do you agree with how American parents responded?
How Much Should Your Kid Be Allowed to Use Their Smartphone?
How many hours per day should your child be allowed to use their smartphone?
For 1 hour per day? For 3 hours per day?
As teens get older, parents increase their daily time limit for their kids using their smartphones.
At the age of 12, 88% of parents say that their child should be using their smartphone for only 1 or 2 hours a day at most.
By the time teens are 14, 69% of parents say that they should be using a smartphone for 2 hours or less per day, while 31% of parents say they can use their smartphone for 3 hours or more.
When teens reach 16, 90% of parents say that their teens can use their smartphone for 2 hours or more per day.
Actual Individual Responses From Parents:
“Only under parental supervision till age of 8, occasionally. Preferably under an hour a day for ages between 8 and 12. Up to 2 hours between ages of 12 to 16. Not more than 3 hours over 16 years of age.”
“I think it should be extremely limited at first and then incrementally increased or “earned” through responsible use and other good behavior. I believe in the punishment and reward system because that’s what real life is like. Actions have consequences.”
“I don’t set a limit as long as their homework and chores are done.”
What limits have you placed on your teen’s smartphone usage?
The Top 8 Threats to Your Children Using Smartphones
We asked parents: “What do you think are the negative effects of your kid using a smartphone from too early of an age or for too long?”
We learned that parents are not only aware, but hypervigilant of numerous risks that can result from too much phone usage or from exposing children to smartphones at too young of an age.
Over two-thirds (68%+) of parents feel that possible negative effects include:
- Becoming addicted
- Experiencing poor social skill development
- Seeing adult content
- Becoming less focused on schoolwork
- Being exposed to online predators
- Experiencing a lack of physical exercise
What do you think are the biggest risks to your children?
When Should Your Kid Start Using Social Media?
At what age should your teen get on social media sites? Social media includes: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and more.
While they many intend to use Facebook or Snapchat to talk to friends, they may wind up talking to strangers. There is also the risk that they will share things about themselves that no parent would want shared. Being on social media also increases the chances of being cyberbullied and viewing inappropriate content.
On average, parents say that around the age of 15 is the best time for their kids to start using social media.
Just like we saw with smartphones, parent responses naturally formed a classic bell curve distribution. The majority of participants – 68% of parents – agree that teens can start using social media between the ages of 14 and 16. The other 32% of parents feel that it’s okay for their children to start much sooner or much later.
How Much Should Your Kid Use Social Media?
At some point, you’ll finally pull the trigger and allow your son or daughter to set up their Facebook or Snapchat account.
When this inevitably happens, how much time should they be allowed to spend on social media sites? What if they were to spend all day on it?
We found that parents increase the average daily limit for social media use by a half-hour every year. Here is how the numbers break down:
For a more detailed view of what parents really think about limiting social media usage by age, see a more detailed chart below.
As teens grow older, parents increase their daily hourly limits for using social media:
- 12 years old: 89% of parents say 1 hour or less per day
- 14 years old: 90% of parents say 2 hours or less per day
- 16 years old: we find an even distribution of daily hourly limits
- 18 years old: 64% say unlimited, while 36% still limit usage
Parents Weigh In On Limiting Social Media Use:
Parents had a lot to say about the different potential threats that are a part of being on social media and shared how those concerns influence their decision-making:
“I think it should be limited to an hour or so a day until they reach 18 because of all the bullying that goes on in schools. That’s where kids do most of their attacking.”
“I impose no limits if they are doing well in school and doing what they are supposed to be doing.”
“Unlimited unless it’s interfering with them.”
“No restrictions unless they are addicted”
Close Supervision and Monitoring:
“It should be used only under the direct supervision of a parent.”
“The parent should have access to all usernames and passwords.”
“I have to be their friend and watch what they post.”
“Kids’ social media should be heavily monitored until they are 16”
All Good Things in Moderation:
“Everything in moderation is okay, but parents need to keep an eye on things. Teenagers should have freedom, but everything is good in its limit.”
98% of Parents Say Monitoring Social Media Activity is Important
As parents told us more about having their kids on social media, we quickly discovered that there was a clear consensus on one point: the importance of monitoring their teen’s activity on social media.
Over half of parents (57%) say that monitoring their kid’s activity on social media is extremely important.
And another 32% of parents say that it is just “important”.
The reason why?
Social media provides kids with plenty of opportunities to get themselves in trouble in a variety of different ways. The next section highlights the main risks to children on social media.
The Top 11 Threats to Your Kids on Social Media
Why do 98% of parents feel that monitoring their kid’s social media activity is so important?
There are at least 11 potential threats that our children might encounter on social media sites.
Parents Articulate The Complexity of Risks on Social Media:
“Inferiority complex, wrong notions about success and popularity, superficial values.”
“They might start to care too much about what people think of them.”
“They become too dependent on what other people are doing. And never develop a social life of their own. “
The main risks that your teen faces on social media sites are:
- Sharing too much personal info
- Being exposed to online predators
- Becoming unfocused on schoolwork
- Experiencing bullying or harassment
- Seeing inappropriate/adult content
- Becoming addicted
- Being exposed to negativity
- Losing touch with the real world
- Comparing themselves to others
- Developing poor social skills
- Getting in trouble
Another hot parenting topic in 2017 is gender roles and the influence that parents have on how their children feel about traditional gender roles. Is it okay for a boy to wear a pink shirt? What about a girl who wants to play basketball or hockey? Or what about issues like being transgenderism, sexual orientation, and gender roles?
As the cultural mindset around gender and sexuality has transformed over the last few decades, we decided to take a closer look. We focused our inquiry down to one simple question. How do you feel about “boys playing with dolls and girls playing with trucks”? The responses were pretty apparent. Here’s what we found.
Should Boys Play With Dolls & Girls Play With Trucks?
75% say it is fine and okay. 15% say it’s not okay. 10% are unsure.
And most perhaps interestingly, parents are very passionate on both sides of the issue.
The vast majority of parents (88%) say that they are passionate about their answer, with more than half of respondents (58%) saying they are “very passionate” about this topic.
As the American consciousness about how animals are treated (animal welfare) continues to increase – like when considering how hamburgers are produced – more and more Americans are becoming vegetarian and vegan.
As parents become vegetarian/vegan, they directly influence the diet that they provide to their children.
What do parents feel about children (especially babies) being raised on a non-meat diet? Take a look at what parents had to say.
Should Your Child Eat a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet?
While only a small percentage of parents feel that vegetarian and vegan diets are “totally fine for children” (16% and 9% respectively), more than half of parents have some hesitation about these diets (52% and 64%).
Many parents do feel, however, that it is ultimately up to the child’s parents to decide what kind of diet they should be feeding their children (43% and 40%).
Take a closer look at a more detailed view of how parents actually responded:
Disciplining children has changed drastically over the last several decades. So we decided to investigate what parents feel about spanking children today in 2017. We assumed that most parents today might see spanking as an outdated and possibly barbaric practice that has no place in modern society.
The results might surprise you as much as they surprised us.
Spanking: 62% of Parents Say It Can Be Okay
We were surprised to hear this: 62% of parents say that spanking can be okay.
Considering alternative and modern methods to discipline, such as timeouts and taking away rewards, we didn’t expect that in 2017 62% of parents would say that spanking can be okay. After all, the point of spanking is to inflict physical pain as a form of punishment.
Although we can all understand that spanking may seem like the only recourse for parents who have tried everything and nothing seems to be working, we were surprised to see just home many people think of spanking as a disciplinary tool.
We assumed that most parents only used spanking in rare and unusual situations, but it turns out that more than a quarter of parents (28%) say that spanking is “necessary”!
Parents Elaborate Further
“There is never a reason to hit a child. Children learn by example. “
“Timeouts work. Spanking just teaches violence.”
“I feel there is no need to spank, other methods are more effective.”
“I don’t believe in inflicting physical harm on another person, regardless of age”
“I don’t believe in spanking. It has more adverse effects than positive and really doesn’t make kids behave better”
In Favor of Spanking:
“To be used sparingly, only in situations where there is no way to discipline the child in any other manner. Should be done only to cause temporary pain and not long term pain or fear.”
“Only when absolutely necessary. I occasionally spank my children, but only after other punishments haven’t worked. It’s SO RARE that they know I mean business.”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
The Future of Parenting in the Digital Age
In some ways, the study revealed reassuring findings about how engaged parents are with their children. With 98% of parents reporting that monitoring their children’s social media activity is important, it is clear that today’s parents are tuned into the role of social media and its potential to negatively affect young kids.
Parents setting certain time limits on their childrens’ use of smartphones and the age at which they can have their own phones is also reassuring so that we aren’t creating a new generation of smartphone addicts. As one parent said it best, “Everything in moderation.”
Even if parents are using certain social media platforms themselves, it is still important to be aware of how these platforms are being used so that kids can safely navigate social media and have it be a positive experience.
The results also show that today’s parents are more liberal when it comes to allowing their children to make their own choices about how they express their gender. While a small percentage of respondents seemed uncomfortable with the idea of doing away with “girls” and “boys” toys, the vast majority don’t see a problem with kids playing with whatever toy grabs their attention.
This signals a clear shift in the way Americans think about gender and how much freedom kids are given to develop their own identity. It is safe to assume that this trend will continue and parents will become even less concerned with gender roles in the future.
Ultimately, this study yielded an insightful look at how parents are handling new challenges that are the result of living in a modern world where technology, smartphones, and social media are inescapable.
It seems that parents are more liberal when it comes to exposing their children to smartphones and social media, yet they still hold onto more traditional disciplinary practices like spanking and diets like veganism and vegetarianism.
The good news is that parents are acutely aware of the potential risks that are inherent in technology use and they see it as their job to vigilantly protect their children. If anything, this research highlights the tension between progressive technology and tradition. Parenting will have to continue to evolve as technology becomes more and more prevalent in our every day life.
Methodology and Study Details
We began our study by first identifying our target audience to ask questions to: American parents. Then, we began to list out our questions around related topics that we thought would be the most insightful areas for research.
Our study and research had a 2-phase approach. The first phase was to ask open-ended questions to American parents via an online survey form and listen to their actual responses. We closely read, reviewed, and analyzed their open-ended responses. Their responses often surprised us, and helped us to create a new, second survey of closed-ended questions based on categorizing their open-ended answers from the first survey.
To create the response options for our closed-ended questions (radio buttons or checkboxes), we looked for patterns and recurring themes of answers among parents from the open-ended questions in the first survey. We then created answer choices based on these open-ended questions. We finally executed our second survey for our final answers that were used in the data presentation seen here.
All survey respondents were vetted to be both American and parents.
A special thanks to Sure Oak for their help.
We grant permission to repost the statistics, images, and content found on this page. When doing so, we ask that you kindly attribute by linking to cynicalparent.com and this page so your readers can learn more about the project and its methodology.
Publish date: August 1, 2017