Parental Controls: A Silver Lining While Parenting During a Pandemic

Nicole Anderson
September 15, 2020

Let’s be honest, parenting in the digital can be a challenge. And, the global pandemic has created new stresses for parents and teens, who are relying on technology to stay connected to work, school, family, friends and the semblance of life as we knew it before coronavirus.

AT&T’s 2nd annual digital family poll provides insights into just how the technology landscape and family dynamics are changing in today’s connected households. This year’s nationwide poll of parents and teens1 also reveals how parents are monitoring teens’ devices and how teens feel their online experiences affect their wellbeing.

Not surprisingly, teens are spending more time on their phones and entertaining themselves online. In fact, 77% of teens polled spend 3+ hours a day online with videos, movies, music, games or hobbies. Since the pandemic began, the majority of parents have allowed their children to have more screen time. But at the same time, parents are increasingly worried about screen time and online safety.

Another key finding is a widening disconnect between what parents think their teens see and do online and what teens actually see and do. According to the poll, most teens continue to hide risky online behaviors such as deleting messages, hiding photos and creating additional social media accounts without parental permission. 62% say they can easily hide what they are doing online from their parents. Yet, 71% of parents say they can see what their teen is doing online – highlighting that clear disconnect.


But there is a silver lining for today’s digital families: parental controls. Parents overwhelmingly (89%) believe parental controls are an effective tool to manage teens’ digital safety and experience. And, teens with parental controls set on their devices report being happier and say that their devices make them feel safer, more productive and able to pursue their passions at higher rates than those without parental controls.

Inspired by these findings, AT&T teamed up with some of DC’s most iconic Super Heroes -- such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg -- in a new educational spot to remind parents to set parental controls on the connected devices in their household. Parents can see the spot on HBO Max, AT&T TV and other digital platforms, including ScreenReady.com, a free online resource from AT&T providing parental controls guides and digital parenting resources.

If the global COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to look for silver linings. Parental controls are not the vaccine we’ve all been waiting for, but they can help parents create the online and entertainment experience that is right for their family. And, in turn, help make parenting during the pandemic a little easier.

1This poll was developed and conducted by the research firm Quadrant Strategies and was conducted online from July 7-19, 2020. The poll surveyed 500 teens (aged 13-18), 500 parents of kids (parents aged 25-37 of children under age 12) and 500 parents of teens (parents aged 30+ of teens age 13-18) living in the United States. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.28% percentage points for each of these audiences

Written by

Nicole Anderson

As President of the AT&T Foundation and AVP of Corporate Social Responsibility, Nicole oversees the philanthropic budget and CSR communications and awareness efforts for AT&T. Her team oversees disaster relief strategy and manages the AT&T Employee Relief Fund, a public charity funded by employee and corporate donations to provide financial assistance to employees impacted by natural disasters and personal hardships.

Prior to this role, Nicole oversaw AT&T Aspire – a multi-million dollar commitment to drive innovation in education by connecting young people with opportunities. Through Aspire, she managed a diverse programmatic and philanthropic portfolio that included the Aspire Accelerator, an incubator supporting ed-tech entrepreneurs, and the Connect to Success competitive grant program that funds non-profits implementing best-in-class evidenced-based interventions that keep underserved students on track to high school graduation and beyond. She began her career at AT&T as part of its flagship leadership development program and joined the Corporate Social Responsibility team in 2009.

Nicole’s commitment to finding new solutions for social issues started at an early age watching her father design affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area and accompanying him to community meetings. She joined a Congressional campaign soon after college that took her from her native Bay Area to Washington, DC. After working on the Hill as a legislative analyst handling issues from education to telecommunications, she took her experience to the University of California’s Federal Relations office and next, to AT&T.

Nicole serves on the board of Independent Sector, America’s Promise Alliance, the Dallas Zoological Society, and the Commit Partnership, an organization to drive student achievement throughout Dallas County by leveraging data and community expertise. She is a member of the Conference Board’s CSR Council and chairs the program committee. Nicole holds a B.A. in political science from UC San Diego, and an M.B.A. from UT Austin. She and her husband live in Dallas with their two sons.