Teens have always ignored their parents. These days they do it while staring into a smartphone, and even they’re not happy about it.
More than half of all teenagers think they use their phones too much, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Wednesday. And that’s doing more than annoying adults. A quarter of teens reported feeling anxious, lonely and upset without their phones. Girls were more likely to report feeling that way.
Screentime and phone addiction have received increasing attention from the companies selling them. Google, Facebook and Apple have created tools to help people cut down on the amount of time they spend using their devices. But there’s been no conclusive research examining whether such approaches, which focus on awareness and tracking, help.
Doctors and other experts worry that phones, tablets and other screens might affect everything from cognitive development to social skills. But much of the handwringing has been over youngsters binging cartoons on Netflix or YouTube. The Pew study is the latest in its series of inquiries focusing on kids aged 13 to 17. It surveyed 743 teens and 1,058 parents in the United States.
The study found that parents also worry about their teenagers. Two-thirds of parents expressed concern over how much their kids use their devices. More than half said they’ve resorted to restricting when their adolescents can use smartphones.
“In some ways, parents and teens are only recently grappling with this issue,” said Monica Anderson, a senior researcher at Pew. “The nearly universal access to smartphones among teens is a fairly new phenomenon.”
A whopping 95 percent of teens in the United States have smartphones now. That’s a 20 percent jump since Pew last examined the issue in 2015.
Overuse starts first thing in the morning and often continues through the day. Three in four teens reported checking their phones as soon as they wake up, and 45 percent said they are online almost constantly, playing games and checking social media. More than half report feeling like they must reply to messages right away.
School offers a brief respite. Only 31 percent of teenagers said their phones distract them in the classroom. That may be because many schools strictly govern phone use. (Slightly more parents, 39 percent, say their phones are distracting at work.)
If there’s any good news in the report, it’s this: Teens are trying to address the problem. More than half of teens surveyed reported cutting down on screen-time.
Their parents aren’t doing much better. One-third of all parents surveyed admitted to using their phones “excessively.” And half of the teens in the survey said their parents are too often distracted by their own phones, making personal conversations difficult.
So it’s not just the kids who are ignoring people while starting into a phone.