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Why parents fail to avoid conflicts with kids over their mobile use

Children using smartphones and tablets are causing conflict and heated arguments in most families, highlighting the need for official guidelines to help parents who are just winging it on their kids’ mobile use, researchers have said.

As many parents will agree, children and teens’ mobile use is a significant source of family arguments.

A new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia shed light on the issue to help “millennial parents” who are literally making it up as they go when it comes to digital media use in the home.

“What is surprising is while parents reported high rates of oppositional behaviour, such as arguing back, very few sourced information on screen time from trusted sources such as general practitioners, teachers, or counsellors,” said lead researcher Stephanie Milford.

The results, published in the journal Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, emphasise the importance of educating parents on the role mobile media was playing in shaping their child’s behaviour.

A survey of 281 Australian parents found 75 per cent of parents reported experiencing conflict, tension, and family disagreements over mobile media use, yet almost 1 in 3 had never looked for official guidelines on digital media use by children for help.

Additionally, lack of exercise, having difficulties completing tasks, excessive gaming, sleep problems and social withdrawal were all common problems reported by at least 1 in 5 parents.

Parents recognised the negative impacts of mobile media on their child’s behaviour, and reported that their kids were finding it harder to focus, follow directions, exercise self-control and handle emotions.

“Our results show parents are using informal networks, which could indicate the official guidelines around digital media use are either difficult to understand or not fit for purpose,” Milford noted.

There was a huge amount of conflicting advice, both official and unofficial, on how much time children should use digital media.

“We know today’s mums and dads struggle with no frame of reference because these devices didn’t exist when they were children,” she said.

“Parents are trying their best by using a range of strategies they have heard about, to try to curb their children’s mobile media use.”

“It’s clear a better job needs to be done in educating parents about how their children’s digital media use could be affecting their behaviour and development,” Ms Milford said.

The results show the need for digital media use guidelines to be developed, which are easy for parents to understand and put into practice.

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