Parents implement screen-free zones around the house to curb their childrens’ tech use

Kids these days… four in five American parents agree it's harder to raise children today than when they were growing up, according to new research.

The survey polled 2,000 American parents of school-aged children to see how they handle their kids in today's digital age and found 80% agreed parenting is more challenging than 30 years ago due to the role technology plays in our everyday lives.

Eighty-six percent of parents polled also agreed that kids "grow up" much faster today thanks to tech.

Parents shared their kids received their first internet-connected device at just seven years old. Just under a quarter of respondents (23%) even said they gave their child access to the web between the ages of three and five.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Smith Micro Software, the survey found that kids are spending an average of 43% of their free time on some type of internet-connected device - and the COVID-19 pandemic may have exasperated it.

Four in five parents agreed they've allowed their kids to have more screen time to stay entertained due to the limits imposed on them due to the pandemic. In fact, four in 10 parents surveyed said their kid racks up five or more hours of entertainment-related screen time every day.

To help prepare them for the potential dangers lurking on the internet, 86% of parents said they talk to their kids regularly about their online safety - and with good reason. When asked what is most worrisome regarding their child's wellbeing, 31% of parents cited physical safety while nearly the same number (30%) said their child's online safety worries them the most.

Nearly nine in 10 (88%) of parents surveyed agreed that it's their responsibility to monitor and/or control their child's online activity. Interestingly, more than half (54%) of the same parents agree that it's a violation of their child's trust to monitor, track and/or control their online activity.

The top concerns when it comes to their online safety included negative or dangerous interactions on social media (55%) and viewing inappropriate content (54%). Surprisingly, a much lower proportion of parents cited cyberbullying (38%) and playing violent video games (23%) as concerning.

Kids do say the darndest things, though. Seventy-one percent of parents said their kids challenge them and say they know more about online safety than they do.

With these challenges come disagreements about their online presence, and the top argument is how much their kids are spending online.

"Digital platforms empower today's children to craft unique identities and worldviews independent of their parent's influence at a much younger age," said William W. Smith Jr., President and CEO of Smith Micro Software. "For parents, this loss of control can be very scary. 

Fifty-five percent of parents admitted to arguing with their kid over how much time they're spending online while a little less than half (47%) said they have spats with their kids about what they're doing online. Forty-two percent of parents said that their kid's smartphone usage frequently causes arguments, while only 32% cited their child's data privacy as a bone of contention.

To keep their kids safe online, parents rely on a variety of digital parenting techniques and technologies. Forty-three percent of parents said they employ a family media plan to personalize how screen time limits and digital media consumption, while the same percentage impose daily limits to proactively manage screen time.

Additional safety measures parents rely on include parental control software (42%), content filters (39%) and even designated screen-free zones around the house (36%).

"The results of our survey indicate that a sizable proportion of American parents regularly use digital parenting technology to keep their kids safe online," said Smith. "These tools are now mainstream - with 92% of parents saying they appreciate the value it adds to their daily routines."