Kids & tech: Parents say benefits outweigh the harm

Teen girl using a mobile phone

A major survey of parents found that the majority (53%) believe there is more potential benefit than potential harm when it comes to their children’s use of technology… though many remain ambivalent (42%).

Here’s more of what parents had to say about how their kids use tech.
Parents’ confidence about their children’s tech use

The report, “Parenting in the Digital Age: How Parents Weigh the Potential Benefits and Harms of Their Children’s Technology Use,” from the non-profit Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), explored the issues kids face online through the lens of parents and caregivers, and examined the findings in the contexts of age, education and ethnicity.

Overall, findings show that the more confident parents are in their ability to manage their child’s technology use, the more likely they are to perceive that the benefits of kids’ technology use outweigh the harms.

“This report captures the keen awareness among parents of the promise of technology in their children’s lives,” says Stephen Balkam, Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute. “But it also points to an unmet need for information, tips, guidance and practical help on how to raise kids in our digital world.”

Additionally, as one of the most comprehensive surveys of Hispanic parents’ attitudes concerning online safety, the study indicates that Hispanic children are highly engaged with technology.

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Of those polled, 69% of Hispanic parents say their child has three or more devices that connect to the internet, compared to 55% of white parents who say that about their child. Spanish-dominant Hispanic parents are also more likely than English-dominant Hispanic parents or white parents to see potential harms outweighing the potential benefits of kids’ tech use.

Survey says…

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Parents with younger children also are more likely to think that they (the parent) know more about technology and online activities than their child does (80%), whereas just 36% of parents with a child age 14 to 17 think they know more than their child.
  • 93% of parents think their child is safe when he or she is online, including 37% who feel they are very safe. Only 7% think their child is unsafe.
  • 64% of parents feel very or fairly confident in their ability to keep track of their child’s technology use, but that varies notably between parents of teens (58%) and those whose children age six to nine (73%).
  • Most parents say (95%) they monitor their child’s technology use at least somewhat closely, including 55% who say they monitor it very closely. Parents of teens (41%) are notably less likely than parents of younger children age 6 to 9 (68%) to say they monitor technology usage very closely. Spanish-dominant parents are among those more likely to say they monitor their children very closely (63%).
  • They are most likely to feel the benefits outweigh the harms when it comes to their child’s use of apps and their playing mobile and video games offline (51% benefits outweigh) and their child using a cell phone that is not a smartphone (50%).
  • They are less likely to feel the benefits trump the harms when it comes to their child using a smartphone (38%) and their playing online games (44% benefits outweigh).
  • They are much less likely to think the benefits of their child’s having a social media account outweigh the harms (26% benefits outweigh harms, 43% harms outweigh benefits, 31% about equal).
  • The majority of parents (53%) are positive about the impact of schools collecting data on their child’s academic performance and behavior.
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The study was released at the eighth Annual Conference of the Family Online Safety Institute. In response to the express need of parents for information and guidance on their children’s technology use, FOSI also used the conference platform to launch “Good Digital Parenting,” which includes instructional videos, blogs featuring expert commentary, and a practical toolkit of downloadable materials to support those on a digital parenting journey with children of all ages.

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