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Survey: Kiwi Parents Concerned About Kids' Tech Use

13 Mar 2023

nib Parenting Survey March 2023
  • Technology use and the impact of screen time is the number one concern for 70% of parents surveyed - down from 87% in 2020, and 89% in 2019
  • Almost half (47%) said negative impact on health and wellbeing is a particular worry
  • Yet, 50% said they spent too much time on their own devices, and 66% admit to relying on screens as a bargaining chip and to distract children

Leading health insurer nib New Zealand (nib), has released further findings from its fourth annual State of the Nation Parenting Survey.

The survey, which nib conducts annually with global research company, One Picture, canvassed the views of 1,226 parents, step-parents and guardians of children under 18, nationally.

This year the survey shows technology use continues to nag at parents, with the real impacts on health and wellbeing increasingly evident.

Technology use remains the number one worry for 70% of parents, with 24% ‘extremely concerned’. The amount of time kids’ spend online worried 75% of parents; inappropriate content (74%), online bullies and predators (66%) and the negative impact on health and wellbeing (47%) were also issues.

More than a quarter (27%) felt screen time affected their child’s ability to focus and concentrate, while 21% said they have noticed problematic shifts in behaviour. A further 22% said device use causes conflict in their families.

Parents also admitted to lacking discipline when it comes to their own screen time. Half (50%) said they felt addicted to their devices, while two thirds (66%) rely on technology as a distraction for their children.

During the last six months, most (70%) parents have taken action: limiting kids’ screen time (52%) and taking away devices as punishment (57%). Among Māori parents, 32% block certain apps (versus 25% nationwide) and 25% have direct access to their child’s device (compared with 19% nationwide).

Nathan Wallis, nib’s parenting expert, said that parents are in an incredibly difficult position given how integrated devices are today in our work and home lives.

“The increase in the number of hours people spend working from home means that kids see their parents using devices more often, which is unavoidable. It also puts parents in a complex situation when it comes to disciplining screen time,” Mr Wallis said.

“Intentionally spending time as a family, with no devices in hand, or putting your phone out of sight around mealtimes, models positive behaviour and can help remove the double standard otherwise in play."

“Try encouraging your kids to find activities, like crafts, sport or games that don’t require a screen. And remember, getting kids to adhere to rules can be a lot easier when they feel they’ve been part of the conversation. Work out an agreement together and find a healthy balance.”

Modelling positive behaviours

Parents are always keen to set a healthy example for their children, but in a world dominated by technology, sometimes this is easier said than done. In fact, fewer than half of respondents (40%) believed they model good behaviour with their device use.

Parents acknowledge that devices are needed at school but want to encourage their kids to limit use at home. Parents of children at primary school were significantly (83%) more likely to limit screen time than parents of children of other ages.

Rob Hennin, nib New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, notes this has been a perennial theme in the survey.

“It’s no secret that during Covid lockdowns parents often felt they had few choices but to allow their kids extra screen time. But 47% of parents remain concerned about the negative impact of device use on their kids’ health and wellbeing,” Mr Hennin said.

“Technology is here to stay. And in many ways, it makes our lives better. For parents, it’s about striking the right balance, so it’s really inspiring to see that parents are being proactive.”

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