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Mobile Devices Give Parents Their Kids' Latest Entertainment Tool

Parents often entertain young children using smartphones, tablets

September 26, 2013 | Demographics | Mobile

Nearly two-thirds of adults in the US have distracted or entertained a child 5 years old or younger with a mobile device, according to an August 2013 survey from Harris Interactive. While the developmental implications of mobile devices are still somewhat unclear—with many worrying about the distracting effects of smartphones and tablets, and others touting the educational opportunities on these devices—there is no question that mobile has become the norm for many kids.

Age of the Youngest Child that US Internet Users Have Entertained/Distracted with a Mobile Device, Aug 2013 (% of respondents)

Parents were the most likely candidates to be handing off a mobile device to their children, with 61% having used a smartphone and tablet to keep their child engaged. Another 17% had done the same with an ereader. Still, there are holdouts. One out of five parents said they had never used a mobile device to keep any of their kids younger than 18 years old entertained.

Parents also show a higher propensity for owning an array of smart mobile devices than nonparents. Nearly seven out of 10 parents in the survey owned a smartphone, 44% had a tablet and 21% an ereader. That’s compared to 47% of nonparents with a smartphone, 29% with a tablet and 16% with an ereader. And parents also overindexed for nearly every mobile content activity compared to nonparents, including emailing, playing games, social networking and watching videos.

Surprisingly, one of the few mobile activities for which parents tied with nonparents was taking photos. Apparently, whether it’s capturing a child’s first steps or the latest gourmet creation cooked at home, parents and nonparents find sharing photos via mobile to be compelling in equal proportion.

Mobile Content Activities According to US Smartphone Users, Parents vs. Nonparents*, Aug 2013 (% of respondents in each group)

A survey from the NPD Group confirmed that mobile devices are seeing heavy uptake among US parents and children. In 2012, 63% of parents with children between 2 and 14 years old said either they or one of their children owned a mobile phone, smartphone or tablet. This year, that figure rose to 79%.

Mobile Device Ownership Among US Parents and Children*, June 2012 & 2013 (% of respondents)

There is no question that marketers trying to reach parents—or even children—are highly likely to find them on mobile.


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