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Families See Digital Devices Aid Connection

Parents admit technology helps family life, but worry about offspring online

January 12, 2012

The modern version of the family hearth, the TV, has been replaced by the PC and the tablet. A Microsoft “Family Technology Survey,” which asked parents which technology devices they used most to connect with immediate family members, found that 43% said a computer or tablet drew family members together. Only 21% of respondents said they gather around the TV for quality family time.

Parents of kids of all age groups resoundingly chose the PC over the TV, with the PC becoming ever more popular as children get older.

The third most popular technology for family togetherness was smartphones at 16%. Game consoles rated a distant fourth at 3%.

Electronic Devices/Services that US Parent Internet Users Use to Connect with Their Families, by Age of Parent and Age of Children, Oct 2011 (% of respondents in each group)

A survey of US women about wireless technology by CTIA-The Wireless Association, echoed the Microsoft study.

“Anecdotally, some might believe technology divides families, but the CTIA survey shows that almost 45% said wireless devices help the family spend more time together,” a CTIA press release indicated. The CTIA results emphasized how wireless devices keep members informed about each other’s activities and locations as well as help coordinate schedules.

Often the devices that some say promote family togetherness are owned by the children themselves. A survey of parents of children between ages 10 and 13 done by AVG Technologies, a security software company that polls parents of children around the world about digital trends and device usage, found that 63% of US 10- to 13-year-olds had their own computer, while over a quarter (28%) possessed a smartphone. Even 58% of 10-year-olds owned a PC, while 21% had a smartphone.

Select Electronic Devices Owned by US Children According to Their Parents, by Age of Child, Sep 2011 (% of respondents in each group)

Tony Anscombe, senior security evangelist at AVG, said it is worrisome what can occur when a child uses these devices without family supervision. “We should embrace kids’ online activity and encourage it, but we should make sure that people stay safe,” Anscombe told eMarketer. He added that parents need to educate children about their safety and the consequences of their action online.

“A child watching TV for a few hours a day doesn’t change their adult life,” he pointed out. “If something is put on the internet, it can be very difficult to remove, and can affect that child’s life for a long time.”

Do marketers have a responsibility to help inform parents? Answering yes, Anscombe drew this analogy: “Most bicycle manufacturers promote the use of a helmet.”

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Check out today’s other article, “Mobile Video Provides Biggest Growth for Ad Support.”

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