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Are parents of tweens and teens massive hypocrites about screen time?

If there’s one thing that unites parents of tweens and teens (and often even younger kids) in modern society, it’s the amount of time their kids spend to glued to a screen of some kind. But are we to blame?

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It’s no big secret that children learn by example, so if we’re digital junkies ourselves, can we really expect our kids to be any different? According to a new report from Common Sense Media, The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens, parents of tweens and teens spend around nine hours on any given day with screen media. And we can’t play the “work” card, because 82 percent of that time (almost eight hours) is spent on social activity such as watching TV, gaming and social networking. Basically, we’re spending a massive chunk of our day doing exactly what we’re telling our kids not to do.

But it’s not all bad news. The report also shows that parents are trying to be good digital role models — perhaps not in how much time they spend on screens themselves, but certainly in terms of being aware of what our kids are doing when they’re online and taking active steps to protect them from online risks.

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Monitoring our kids’ media use takes priority over respecting their privacy, say two-thirds of parents, and more than 2 in 5 of them check their children’s devices and social media accounts “always” or “most of the time.”

There are some inconsistencies in the survey results. Although 78 percent of all parents believe they are good media and digital role models for their kids (moms more than dads, apparently), they still have concerns about their kids’ online activity. One third of parents worry that technology use is hurting their children’s sleep, while 43 percent of parents are concerned about how much time their kids spend online.

It seems parents are on the right track when it comes to keeping their kids safe online, but clearly we need to spend less time on screens ourselves and more time ensuring our children are following our example. We’re role models to them, and if we switch off more often, they might just do the same.

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