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Why parents agree children and teens’ mobile use? Report

Children using smartphones and tablets are causing conflict and heated arguments in most families, according to researchers, highlighting the need for official guidelines to assist parents who are winging it with their children’s mobile use. Many parents will agree that their children’s and teens’ use of mobile devices is a major source of family conflict.

A new study from Australia’s Edith Cowan University (ECU) sheds light on the issue in order to assist ‘millennial parents’ who are literally making it up as they go when it comes to digital media use in the home. ‘ What is surprising is that, while parents reported high rates of oppositional behaviour, such as arguing back, there was very little sourced information on screen time from trusted sources, such as general practitioners, teachers, or counsellors,’ said lead researcher Stephanie Milford.

The findings, published in the journal Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, highlight the importance of educating parents about the role mobile media plays in shaping their child’s behaviour. A survey of 281 Australian parents found that 75% of parents reported conflict, tension, and family disagreements over mobile media use, but nearly one-third had never sought help from official guidelines on digital media use by children.

Furthermore, lack of exercise, difficulty completing tasks, excessive gaming, sleep problems, and social withdrawal were all common problems reported by at least one in every five parents. Parents recognised the negative effects of mobile media on their children’s behaviour and reported that their children were finding it difficult to focus, follow directions, and exercise self-control and handle emotions.

‘Our findings show that parents are using informal networks, which could indicate that official guidelines around digital media use are either difficult to understand or not fit for purpose,’ Milford explained. There was a lot of conflicting advice, both official and unofficial, about how much time children should spend on digital media. ‘We know today’s parents struggle with no frame of reference because these devices did not exist when they were children,’ she said.

‘Parents are trying their best by using a range of strategies they have heard about, to try to curb their children’s mobile media use. It’s clear a better job needs to be done in educating parents about how their children’s digital media use could be affecting their behaviour and development,’ Ms Milford said. The results show the need for digital media use guidelines to be developed, which are easy for parents to understand and put into practice.



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