New Research Reveals Overwhelming Majority of Parents Believe Technology Has Positive Effect On Their Children's Lives

November 16, 2015

Concerns remain over social media, levels of physical activity

Washington, D.C. -- A new study from the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) reveals that the large majority of parents believe technology has a positive effect on their child’s future, career and life skills (78%) and creativity (64%). Far more parents are concerned about their child’s personal safety and privacy than kids’ technology use.

The report “Parents, Privacy & Technology Use” evaluates parents’ opinions and views on the role of technology in their child’s life, how informed they feel about their kids’ online activities and how they monitor them, as well as how parents serve as online role models for their children.

“Parents recognize and value the positive impact that technology and the Internet can have on their child’s future, creativity, communications skills and education,” said Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute. “Technology’s opportunities also require recognition of its challenges, however, and more parents need to be aware of the available resources and tools that will enable good digital parenting and keep our kids safe online.”

The research found that technology-savvy and higher educated parents are more confident with overseeing their child’s technology use than parents who are less-educated. However, only 36% of parents claimed that they use parental controls, citing their top reason for not using them as trust in their child or already-established household rules to limit use. Another 37% of parents indicate they use limits other than parental controls, such as friending their children on social media, limiting data and location functions and disabling in-app purchases. Additionally, 87% of parents say that rules for their child’s technology use are already in place, including what sites they can access (79%), what accounts they can have (77%) and what they can post online (75%).

Additional key findings from the report include:

  • 26% of parents say the benefits of social media outweigh the harms, whereas 47% say the harms outweigh the benefits; 27% of parents believe the harms and benefits are about equal.
  • The majority of parents (54%) have learned something from their child regarding use of a smartphone or tablet.
  • The average age at which parents say their child has received a smartphone is 11.9 and a feature phone at 10.8 years. On average, parents permit their children to get a social media account at age 11.7.
  • Three in four parents (75%) have taken away or limited their child’s access to technology, social media, or the Internet as a consequence or punishment for their child’s online and offline behavior.
  • Among parents who have a social networking account, one in five (19%) acknowledges posting something online about his or her child that the child may find embarrassing in the future. 10% of parents acknowledge their child has asked them to take down something that was posted online.

FOSI released the research results at its 9th Annual Conference taking place on November 17 and 18 in Washington, D.C. The conference’s theme “Risks. Harms. Rewards.” focuses on the benefits, opportunities and challenges of our online lives. Panel topics over the course of the two-day conference will cover a wide range of issues, including combating online radicalization and extremism, cyberbullying, online safety, privacy, cyber exploitation, educational technology and digital parenting. The event will also feature keynotes and speeches from prominent speakers such as Katya Andresen, CEO of Cricket Media; Trisha Prabhu, the 15-year-old founder of ReThink; Nancy Lublin, founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line; LGBT Technology Partnership co-founder Christopher Wood; and Alexander Macgillivray, Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The research was conducted for FOSI by Hart Research Associates using both quantitative and qualitative data from an online survey of 589 parents of 6-17 year olds and focus with groups with three diverse sets of parents in suburban Philadelphia.