Among women in the typical age range with children younger than 18, most use the internet, smartphones and so on. Thus, one must look more closely to see what is special in the ways mothers in particular use digital to meet the demands of their role and, at times, to escape from those demands, as explored in the new eMarketer report, “US Mothers 2016: Examining the Distinctive Elements of Their Digital Usage.”
Mothers in the US are indeed highly digital. But then, who isn’t these days? Aside from older folks, it is hard to find a population group in the country that is not digitally engaged. Demographic segments of all sorts are converging at a high level of usage as internet access becomes the norm and mobile devices become standard equipment. As such, the “digital moms” label tells us less and less about aspects of usage peculiar to mothers’ lives.
But much of their digital activity is mother-specific—which stands to reason, given how daily life differs for mothers and non-mothers. Obviously, mothers use digital resources to deal with countless household tasks that non-mothers need never worry about. Mothers’ shopping has distinct characteristics if for no other reason than that they spend an average of $13,000 per year per child, according to federal data noted in a July 2015 BabyCenter report.
Less obviously, mothers also leverage digital to get a breather from their motherly tasks and hang onto remnants of life beyond motherhood. This is just the sort of nuance that emerges once you get beyond “digital moms” and look more closely at mothers themselves.
When a woman becomes a mother, digital resources become a lifeline to the grown-up world, a guide informing the tasks of motherhood and a quick pass to moments of relaxation. But the internet also has its downside for mothers, in part as a locus of “mommy judging.”
Online usage is the norm among mothers. eMarketer estimates that more than nine in 10 mothers with children under 18 in the household are internet users.
Mothers spend more time online than the population in general, according to Edison Research’s “Moms and Media 2015” report, based on January 2015 polling. Mothers averaged 3 hours 7 minutes using the internet during the 24 hours before being queried, vs. 2 hours 51 minutes for total respondents.
Mothers’ attitudes reflect this tendency to linger online. In year-long Simmons Research polling concluded in September 2015, mothers were more likely than female consumers in general (53.9% vs. 44.3%) to agree with the statement: “It’s important for me to have internet access when I am on the go.” They were also more likely (48.5% vs. 42.8%) to say they “rely on the internet to communicate with friends and family.” In Edison Research’s study, the internet led TV by an almost 2-to-1 margin (59% vs. 30%) when mothers cited the medium “most essential” to them.
eMarketer corporate subscription clients can view the full report here.