T-Mobile released results of a new ORC Caravan study that call into question much of what we thought we knew about the relationship between smartphone screen time and family time. The results paint a picture, not of families drifting apart, but of families coming together because of new tech.
So much so, that a large majority of parents—nearly 70%—say smartphones and mobile tech make it easier to communicate with their kids, whether by text, call, email or the full spectrum of social media platforms.
“You know this dad loves his smartphone! And my very favorite things are all the selfies, crazy group texts, all the DMs, Facetimes and Snapchat stories with my daughters,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “And now we know most moms and dads feel the same way. Mobile is how families today stay connected!”
Group Texts and Snapchat …The New Ways Families Stay in Touch
T-Mobile’s study showed that families today are using a full range of mobile technologies and media to stay in touch. For example, nearly half of all parents and kids surveyed (48%) say they enjoy communicating as a family through group texts. Among all social media, Facebook is the platform families use most often, with more than half of parents (54%) saying they use it to stay in touch with their kids. And, more surprisingly, nearly 1 in 4 (23%) parents Snap and use Instagram (22%) with their kids, too.
Another key finding of the study is that mobile tech isn’t just increasing the frequency that family members connect. It’s often improving the quality of our communications, too.
In what may be a surprise to many, a lot of families say that mobile tech helps parents and kids share their feelings with one another more honestly. In fact, a third of parents (33%) said that their children are communicating their feelings to them more openly more often with their smartphones. Sometimes a note (or text) does the job best.
Moms & Dads Love Their Smartphones More Than You’d Think
Another surprise from the study is that—contrary to conventional wisdom—kids and parents go toe-to-toe in hogging their share of the data when forced to share data on the carriers’ shared data plans.
Almost 70% of families report having a data hog in the household. And, despite what you might think, parents and kids both hog their share of data. While kids account for 51%, nearly 40% of data hogs turn out to be the parents, and 9% blamed “others” (i.e. anyone on the plan that isn’t a parent or child—looking at you, aunts, uncles, cousins).
Of course, it should come as no surprise that moms and dads love their smartphones and put them to good use. Beyond the texts and Snaps, nearly one third (28%) of dads keep track of the kids’ whereabouts through their smartphones. That compares to 20% of moms.
You can also credit smartphones for your family photo albums. Nearly 70% of parents say that—thanks to their smartphone—they capture more memories with their children. And, of course, our smartphones are great for jogging the memory. About 1 in 10 parents (13%) admit to forgetting about a child’s upcoming birthday until they get a digital reminder.
In fact, mobile tech now plays such a key role in keeping families connected that parents surveyed say they’d sacrifice a LOT before giving up this means of communicating with their kids. When asked what they’d sacrifice (for a full month!) rather than lose all mobile communications with their children, parents made some surprising choices:
- 41% said they’d give up alcohol
- A full 40% would give up retail shopping
- 2 in 5 would give up dessert (37%)—even chocolate (37%)
- Nearly one quarter (23%) would give up sex
- 1 in 5 (20%) would give up internet access
- 1 in 10 would actually give up their house (11%) and/or their car (12%)
Families Love Their Smartphones, but are Frustrated by Taxes, Fees and Overages – and Don’t Have to Be
Finally, while mobile tech has become critical to staying connected, it isn’t all wine and roses, especially for carrier customers. Nearly 25% of those surveyed said they’ve called their carrier about confusing taxes and fees. And, nearly10% admitted that they’ve brought to tears by shock overages in their monthly bill!