Many Parents Loosen the Reins on Child Media Consumption for the Summer Months

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Summer is officially in full swing which means one crucial thing for parents: school is out. With children underfoot and a typically unavoidable onslaught of “I’m bored” ricocheting throughout the house, popping a movie in and begging for quiet time may be an enticing option for many.

Among Americans with children under 18 at home, over half say their children consume more movies (53%) and television (52%) during the summer. Nearly half say the same for video games (48%) and the Internet (47%), while four in ten (40%) note increased usage of smartphones and nearly one-third (32%) saying their kids use social media more.

However, not all kids are using their summer months to binge on media. Over one quarter of adults say their kids’ consumption shows no change for movies (29%), television (27%), Internet (26%), and social media (26%) during their summer vacations.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,220 adults surveyed online between June 17 and 22, 2015.

Loosen the reins or hold on tight?

Perhaps it’s easier to envision writing stricter rules when you’re not going to have to enforce them. While a majority of those without kids at home say rules should not be loosened during the summer (62%), those actually dealing with an active brood feel a bit differently. Half (50%) of those with children under 18 at home say they do loosen the reins on media consumption during summer months. Three in ten (30%) say they stick to their guns and keep things consistent, while 20% don’t have any rules for their children’s media consumption to begin with.

Rule changes for summer media consumption do differ by the age of the child.

  • Those with children ages 6 and up are more likely to loosen the rules than those with kids 5 or under (53% ages 13-17 & 60% ages 6-12 vs. 38% ages 5 and under).

Whether or not people have kids at home themselves, everyone’s got an opinion on the matter. Among the childless and those without children under age 18 at home, just over one-quarter (27%) say rules should be loosened and 11% say there shouldn’t be any rules to begin with. Women without kids are more likely than their male counterparts to say rules should be loosened (30% vs. 23%, respectively); however, men are more likely to say the rules shouldn’t exist in the first place (15% vs. 7%, respectively).

Are kids more likely to ride a bike or watch someone on TV ride a bike?

Despite majorities of parents citing their children watching more television and movies during the summertime, it’s safe to say some other, non-media-centric, pastimes still rank high on kids’ summer to-do lists. Parents select playing outdoors (75%) and swimming (71%) as among their children’s most enjoyed summer activities. Watching television (54%) ranks third, followed by riding a bike (51%), playing video games (46%), going to the movies (44%), and reading (40%).

Children of all ages appear to gravitate toward playing outdoors and swimming, with these two activities consistently making up the top two favorites – but the activities rounding out the top five do differ some by age:

Gimme, gimme!

Most kids today have an enormous amount of technology at their disposal. If they don’t currently have it, they’re certainly begging for it. But exactly when are parents willing to provide or allow these devices to their children? It depends on the device, of course.

By 11 years old, over half of kids are gaming away on either a handheld device (57%) or a console device (54%), as reported by those who have a child under 18 in the household. By 14 years old, over half have a TV in their bedroom (57%), are puttering away on a tablet computer (55%), and are singing along to a digital music player (52%). And finally, by 17 years old, over half of kids get their hands on a mobile phone or smartphone (54%). With devices like smartphones and tablets in hand it may come as no surprise that just 35% of kids have an eReader by age 17.

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TABLE 1

PARENT STATUS

By Summer Media Rules

 “Are you the parent/legal guardian of any child/children living at home with you who is/are…?  Please select all that apply.”

Base: All adults

 

Total

%

Parent of child living at home (NET)

26

2 years old or younger

7

3-5 years old

7

6-9 years old

9

10-12 years old

7

13-17 years old

10

I am not the parent/legal guardian of any child under 18 years old who is living at home with me.

74

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

 

TABLE 2

OPINION ON SUMMER MEDIA RULES (AMONG NON-PARENTS AND PARENTS OF ADULT-AGED CHILDREN)

By Gender

“Do you think parents should loosen the rules for their children’s media consumption (i.e., allow them more freedom) during the summer?”

Base: Do Not Have A Child Aged 17 Or Younger At Home

 

Total

Gender

Male

Female

%

%

%

Yes

27

23

30

No

62

61

63

NA – I don’t think children should have rules for media consumption

11

15

7

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

TABLE 3a

SUMMER MEDIA CONSUMPTION

Grid Summary

 “Do your children consume more or less of each of the following types of media during the summer than during other times of the year? By summer, we mean the period of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day.”

Base: Have A Child Aged 17 Or Younger At Home

 

MORE (NET)

Much More

Somewhat More

Neither More Nor Less

LESS (NET)

Somewhat Less

Much Less

Not Applicable

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Movies

53

21

32

29

14

8

6

4

Television

52

24

28

27

17

11

7

4

Video games

48

24

24

20

15

5

10

16

Internet

47

22

24

26

15

5

10

12

Smartphone usage (i.e., texting, using apps)

40

19

22

24

14

4

10

22

Social media

32

15

17

26

15

5

10

27

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

 

TABLE 3b

SUMMER MEDIA CONSUMPTION

Summary of “More (NET)”

By Summer Media Rules

“Do your children consume more or less of each of the following types of media during the summer than during other times of the year? By summer, we mean the period of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day.”

Base: Have A Child Aged 17 Or Younger At Home

 

Total

Summer Media Rules

Loosens Rules

Doesn’t Loosen Rules

%

%

%

Movies

53

66

43

Television

52

66

37

Video games

48

65

30

Internet

47

63

26

Smartphone usage (i.e., texting, using apps)

40

54

24

Social media

32

46

13

 

TABLE 4

SUMMER MEDIA RULES

By Child Age

“Do you loosen the rules for your children’s media consumption (i.e., allow them more freedom) during the summer?”

Base: Have A Child Aged 17 Or Younger At Home

 

Total

Child Age

Child 5 years old or under

Child 6-12 years old

Child 13-17 years old

%

%

%

%

Yes

50

38

60

53

No

30

41

28

22

NA – I don’t have rules for my children’s media consumption

20

21

13

25

 

 

TABLE 5

DEVICE OWNERSHIP BY AGE

Grid Summary

“At which age, if any, did your child first get each of the following devices? If you cannot remember exactly, please use your best estimate. If you have more than one child, please answer thinking only of your oldest child aged 17 or younger and living at home.”

Base: Have A Child Aged 17 Or Younger At Home

 

0-3 years

4-7 years

8-11 years

0-11 years (NET)

12-14 years

0-14 years (NET)

15-17 years

0-17 years (NET)

My child does not have this

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Television in their bedroom

14

18

16

49

9

57

3

61

39

Tablet computer (e.g., iPad, Nexus, Kindle Fire)

11

14

18

43

12

55

3

59

41

Console gaming device (e.g., Xbox, PlayStation, Wii)

6

22

25

54

9

63

4

67

33

eReader device (e.g., Kindle, Nook)

5

10

12

37

6

33

2

35

65

Handheld gaming device (e.g., PSP, Nintendo DS)

5

30

23

57

4

61

1

62

38

Digital music player (e.g., iPod)

4

14

23

41

11

52

4

56

44

Mobile phone or smartphone

3

5

15

23

23

46

8

54

46

Personal computer (desktop or laptop)

3

8

15

25

17

42

7

49

51

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.


TABLE 6 

KIDS’ FAVORITE SUMMER ACTIVITIES

By Child Age

“Which of the following activities, if any, does your child(ren) most enjoy doing during the summer? Please select all that apply.”

Base: Have A Child Aged 17 Or Younger At Home

 

Total

Child Age

Child 5 years old or under

Child 6-12 years old

Child 13-17 years old

%

%

%

%

Playing outdoors

75

89

76

60

Swimming

71

69

72

74

Watching television

54

50

63

58

Riding a bike

51

56

56

47

Playing video games

46

38

60

52

Going to the movies

44

36

47

57

Reading

40

43

42

38

Arts and crafts

32

39

32

21

Playing board games or card games

26

26

33

23

Riding a skateboard

18

18

21

16

Rollerblading

8

7

7

8

Something else

19

12

15

31

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between June 17 and 22, 2015 among 2,220 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #48, August 5, 2015

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll