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Survey of Media Use by Children and Parents (summary)

The use of smartphones and tablet devices has been spreading rapidly in recent years, making them indispensable devices in daily life. How much have these new media devices penetrated the daily lives of children? How are parents and guardians dealing with this transition? This survey reveals the current situation of media use and awareness of parents with children aged 6 months to 6 years and how they let their children use them.

Survey Overview

Theme Current situation and awareness of parent-child media use during childhood
Method Mail (Self-administered questionnaires were distributed and collected by mail)
Period March 4 - 31, 2013
Subjects 3,234 mothers with firstborn children aged 6 months to 6 years

*Mailed to 10,010; effective response rate: 32.3%
*Breakdown of children's age: 6-12 months (569), 1 year (521), 2 years (436), 3 years (448), 4 years (438), 5 years (421) and 6 years (401)
Survey area Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama (Tokyo metropolitan area)
Survey items Media ownership; frequency of weekly media use by child, amount of time and time of day; status of application or software use; family rules on media use; parents' awareness of child's media use or applications and software; parents' media use; community involvement; parenting awareness, etc.

1. 60% of mothers with children use smartphones.
The percentage of mothers using smartphones aged 29 and under was 80.2%, 67.4% for those 30-34 years, 58.7% for those 35-39 years, and 47.2% for those 40 and above.

Figure 1: Smartphone ownership rate among mothers of children by age group

2. More than 20% of 2-year-olds whose mother is a smartphone user are exposed to smartphones "almost everyday." As for when and where, over 50% of mothers used it with their child "while waiting (for something/someone) when they are out."
Exactly 22.1% of the 2-year-olds whose mother is a smartphone user were exposed to smartphones "almost everyday" and 10.9% were exposed "3-4 days a week." As for when mothers allowed the child to use it, 53.3% of the 2-year-olds used it "while waiting (for something/someone) when they are out."

Figure 2: Frequency of smartphone use by children per week

Table 1: When mothers let their child use smartphones

3. Daily schedule of the 2-year-olds with smartphone-using mothers shows that hours of smartphone use are relatively short compared to outdoor play or playing with toys.
Looking at the daily schedule of 2-year-olds exposed to smartphones whose mothers are smartphone users, the weekday daily average of time spent on "outdoor play" was 1.3 hours, "playing with toys" was 1.9 hours, and "watching TV" was 1.8 hours, whereas "using smartphones" was 0.3 hours. In terms of total hours per day, the amount of time spent using smartphones is relatively short compared to the time spent playing outdoors or with toys.

Figure 3: Activity time on a weekday (2-year-olds exposed to smartphones)

4. Compared to the percentage of parents and children with set rules on watching TV, a relatively low percentage have set rules on the use of smartphones and other new media.
More than 30% of the parents who let their children use smartphones had set rules on, for example, "censor content," "forbid using during mealtime," or "let parents know when using." On the other hand, compared with rules on watching TV, fewer parents tended to "set the time of day to watch," "set distance from the monitor" or "keep the room bright when watching."

Table 2: Family rules for media use

5. Parents recognize both the pros and cons regarding the use of educational applications and software.
They see certain possibilities as shown in the answers "enriches knowledge (81.5%)," "can enjoy singing and dancing (77.1%)," or "develops self-expression through craft and drawing (68.7%)." On the other hand, parents are concerned that they are "bad for eyes or health (86.0%)," and "addictive (74.6%)."

Table 3: Awareness regarding the children's use of apps and software

6. About 50% of parents aged 29 and under used "Social Networking Services" (SNS) to look up information on parenting and to communicate and exchange information, and about 30% used "instant messengers (LINE, etc.)" for the same purpose.
The percentage of mothers who used SNS as parenting tools was 54.2% among those "aged 29 and under," 43.4% among those "aged between 30 to 34," 28.1% among those "aged between 35 to 39" and 20.7% among those "aged 40 and above." Younger parents seemed to make more use of the different functions of media to gather information on parenting and interact.

Figure 4: Percentage of mothers using websites or SNS for parenting

Very helpful, thank you. Was there any data on mobile phones other than smartphones, or other devices children may be exposed to such as PCs or tablet computers?

Dear Prof. McCarty,

Thank you very much for your comment!
As a matter of fact, we are updating the details of this survey part by part in order.
But the survey data on other media devices such as tablets will be coming soon.
The index page of the entire survey might give you some idea of the whole survey.

We will keep informing you of our updates through our notice.
Otherwise, checking the index page (indicated above) may be another guide to updates.

Thank you for your interest in our survey data.
Please keep in touch.

Yours sincerely,

Child Research Net Secretariat

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