We’ve been at it again! After asking interesting questions about the end of Windows XP support, about Password usage, computers and aggression and Android and security we turned our attention to kids and tablets.
We sent out a survey to a random selected audience in US, UK, Australia and Canada and got a response rate of around 3%. Thank you for all your replies! The prerequisite for participating was the presence of young kids aged 3-10 years and tablets in the household. To keep it simple we left out smartphones, which of course are also present in many homes. You may ask whether these results below are representative for other countries. Looking and comparing similar studies, we believe they are.
Now to the actual survey: The usage of tablets among kids has risen sharply over the last few years. There is a debate whether kids are using tablets too much and whether tablets help or hurt their development. Being a parent myself and discussing tablets and kids with other parents, it is trivial to mention that most kids spend a lot of time using tablets, and that tablets even monopolize some kids’ playtime. The picture below pretty much sums up how we initially assumed the relationship between kids and tablets would be.
The questions in the survey try to uncover how much time is actually spent using tablets and how the parents handle that. Since our favorite subject is security, we have also included questions to address that. The first question addresses what the tablets are actually being used for.
First of all, it is a bit strange that many respondents choose not answer the question above. It probably reveals that many parents are not aware of or are very unsure of what the tablets are actually used for. Our study, however, supports other studies showing that kids spend less time in front of the TV. That is probably because the tablet is more interesting: To a certain extend it offers the same as the TV plus the games. It is of course also interesting to know how much time is spent using those tablets.
So it seems only a small proportion uses the tablets more than 3 hours a day, and most only use the tablets less than 1 hour. So are kids using too much time in front of the tablets? Almost 35% think so, which we think is a high share. Apparently, quite a few parents are having concerns about how much their kids uses tablets. With the high number of participants who did not answer this question at all, we speculate that many parents are simply undecided here.
Above, we went into the discussion of which activities took a beating, due to the time spent on the tablets. We offered four options.
Quite a few believe that the kids engage in fewer physical and social activities in favor of the tablets. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that 10% feel that homework is neglected due to the tablets. Since the survey was among parents with kids aged 3-10, that number may actually be somewhat higher in reality. So do parents actively do anything to regulate time in front of the tablet?
It seems so. Almost 60% have to set rules here. As I recall my childhood, I remember not having any rules as to how much football I played or how many trees I climbed. There was never anything interesting for kids on TV, so it is interesting to watch a generation of kids now having their time much more regulated.
Finally, our last question handles the extend to which parents control which apps are installed on the tablets. Some estimations indicate that there are more than one million fake apps out there and a lot of scams around the app stores. See eg. here and here.
So almost 35% do not control which apps are installed, which is a potential security issue. On top of that, it obviously involves the risk of having kids install apps like Grand Theft Auto that are really not suitable for youngsters.
So there you have it. Are kids in general and your kids in particular spending too much time using tablets? It’s difficult to say. Tablets have brought so much fun for kids, but have also monopolized a lot of time previously spent on activities, which for us seem much healthier. There is no doubt this generation of kids spends their time quite differently than the generations before them. We can only speculate what this will mean for them, when they grow up. Will they become very creative and tech oriented or lack simple social and physical skills?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!