What You Need To Know About Parenting In The 21st Century

At a recent game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, a camera operator spotted a group of sorority girls from Arizona State University taking selfies. The camera focused on the girls for over two minutes as Diamondbacks announcers Bob Brenly and Steve Berthiaume poked fun at the group for ignoring the game.

The footage went viral and quickly became a case study on technology. On one side were the millennials and their phones. On the other were the Baby Boomers and America’s pastime.

Most reports sided with the girls and felt the ASU students did nothing wrong by taking a few pictures at a meaningless late-season baseball game.

“Baseball is a game with a lot of breaks and using that downtime to capture a fun moment with your friends shouldn’t make you the topic of a two-minute call-out,” said Tanya Bondurant from SB Nation. “It just makes you a human in the 21st century.” (1)

The announcers had a different position, suggesting their phones be taken away or an intervention be held. However, they expressed a similar theme to Bondurant — “Welcome to parenting in 2015,” commented Berthiaume.

No matter who you side with, one thing is clear. Screen time is king.

Welcome To Parenting in 2015

No one is going to dispute the fact that college kids spend a lot of time on their phones. This is evident in the case of the ASU sorority girls at the Diamondbacks game.

But what about kids younger than college age? How much time do they spend glued to screens?

According to a report by The Kaiser Family Foundation, eight- to 18-year-old kids spend more than seven hours a day looking at screens – be it phone, computer, tablet or television. (2) And, believe it or not, that number doesn’t even include sending or receiving texts, which the average seventh- to 12th-grader does for more than 90 minutes a day. (3)

If you think those numbers are skewed by older kids, think again. A study at UCLA reported that six graders spend more than four hours of screen use daily. (4) And children under eight years old spend two hours a day looking at screens. (5)

No matter what age group you look at, one thing is clear, kids spend a lot of time looking at screens. And you won’t believe at what age group this screen-time starts.

Connected at Birth

Guess at what age, a child first plays with a phone or tablet. Now cut that guess in half. And then cut it in half again.

New research has shown that more than a third of infants are using smartphones and tablets.

A reported 36% of parents said their children had touched or scrolled a screen before they had celebrated their first birthday. An additional 33% of parents said their child used a screen when they were just 1 year old. Only 2% of parents said they waited until their kids were four years of age. 15% of kids had used an app before they turned 1 and 36% started using apps when they were 2-years old. 36% even started playing video games when they were 2. (6)

Kids start using screens before they are eating solid foods and in no time, they have their very own screen attached to their hip.

56% of parents of eight- to 12-year-olds have purchased cell phones for their children, according to a study by the National Consumers League. (7) Another study found most children get their first cell phone by the age of six. (8)

Kids are getting cell phones at the same time they are starting school.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that. Cell phones provide a sense of safety and are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family.

But more often than not, the phones are used for other reasons. As evidence by the 3.5 million Facebook users in the United States who are children 13 and under. (9)

Quick Recap

I know I have thrown a lot of numbers at you, so let’s take a minute to recap what we’ve learned.

  • 98% of children are using a tablet or phone before they turn 4-years old.
  • By the time they turn 6-years old, the majority of kids will have their own cell phone.
  • This leads to children spending more than 7 hours a day looking at screens.
  • Much of this time is spent using social media.

So where are all these kids learning how to use this technology and social media? One thig is becoming clear – they are not learning this at school.

Are Schools Utilizing Technology?

A University of Phoenix College of Education survey found that 95% of K-12 teachers have had some level of training in regards to using new technology in the classroom; however, over half (62%) of those teachers were given minimal or no training in the area of interacting with students and parents through social media.

Even with the training, 20% of teachers feel intimidated by students’ knowledge/use of technology and mobile devices.

As a result, an overwhelming majority (87%) of teachers have not begun to use social media in classroom learning. Not only are teachers refraining from integrating new media into their lessons, but they are becoming even more reluctant to do so than in years past. 55% of teachers reported being reluctant to incorporate social media into classroom learning in 2013, but that number has now jumped up to 62%. (10)

So if children aren’t learning about technology and social media in the classroom, where are they learning this important skill?

Home is Where The Smart Is

Children are learning about screen time in the same place they are learning to clean their plate or how to throw a baseball…at home.

Kids learn how to use technology by looking at their parents. If they see mom and dad pick up their phone during dinner, they are more likely to pick up their phone during dinner. Now the question becomes, what type of example are we setting for our kids?

New research has found that we have some work to do if we want to set a good example. The first thing we can do is cut back on phubbing.

Phubbing, a new term that is short for “phone snubbing” refers to the practice of ignoring the people you are with because you are focusing all of your attention on your phone.

A report published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior states that over 46% of people said they have been phubbed by their partner and 22% said this phubbing has caused issued in their relationship. (11)

While at dinner, an average restaurant will see 36 cases of phubbing. This equates to spending 570 days alone, while in the company of others. (12)

Kids imitate their parents, so when they see dad phubbing mom, or vice versa, they will learn to phub.

The key is for parents to talk to their children about social media and phone use. Discuss the risks and rewards. Chat about what is appropriate both online and in person. Set limits for yourself and for your child. Encourage your kids to express themselves in person and talk to you when something happens that makes them feel upset.

And start the conversation now.

Use the example of the ASU students at the Diamondbacks game. Discuss both sides of the video. Explain why the announcers felt the girls were phubbing the baseball game. Talk about why it is okay to take selfies with friends.

As we have seen, kids are using this technology from birth and it quickly becomes something that takes up a large chunk of their time. To go back to the line from the beginning of this article, it is the parents’ job to make sure their kids are educated, well-mannered and responsible enough to be a productive a human in the 21st century.



(1) http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2015/10/2/9437081/diamondbacks-announcers-selfie-video

(2) https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/8010.pdf

(3) http://kff.org/disparities-policy/press-release/daily-media-use-among-children-and-teens-up-dramatically-from-five-years-ago/

(4) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214003227

(5) https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america-2013

(6) http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-babies-screen-time-iphone-ipad-20150424-story.html

(7) http://mom.me/parenting/3357-when-should-my-kid-get-a-cell/

(8) http://abc7chicago.com/technology/study-53%25-of-kids-get-a-cell-phone-at-age-6/637197/

(9) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/19/under-13-year-olds-on-facebook_n_1898560.html

(10) http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/09/02/survey/

(11) https://www.yahoo.com/health/how-your-partners-phone-is-messing-up-your-173844214.html

(12) http://stopphubbing.com/


Photo credit: Wikipedia

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