Technology Making It Harder to Raise Children: Barna Study

Parents say it is harder than ever to raise children, and the number one reason they cite is technology, according to a new research-based book by Barna Group.

Nearly eight in 10 parents believe that they have a more complicated job in raising their kids today than their parents did raising them, says cultural commentator Andy Crouch in The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place, which was written in partnership with Barna research.

Asked what makes it more difficult to raise kids today, 65 percent of parents said technology or social media. Fifty-two percent said because the world is more dangerous today and 40 percent said it's the lack of common morality that makes it harder to raise children.

A part of the problem is that most family members go to bed with their phones.

A full seven in 10 parents say they sleep with their phone next to them. Alarmingly, parents say their kids are even more likely to take their phones to bed. More than eight in 10 parents of teens say their child takes their phone to bed and more than seven in ten parents of preteens say the same.

"And when that phone is right next to you, it's tempting to reach for it when you wake up: 62 percent of parents say checking their phone is the first thing they do in the morning," the research says.

"What are they doing on their phone while they rub away the cobwebs of sleep? Most check their email (74 percent). Social media (48 percent), news (36 percent) and calendar organization (24 percent) also vie for their attention. Less than one in five (17 percent) are using a Bible or devotional app."

"Technology is literally everywhere in our homes — not only the devices in our pockets but the invisible electromagnetic waves that flood our homes," writes Crouch in the book. "This change has come about overnight, in the blink of an eye in terms of human history and culture. When previous generations confronted the perplexing challenges of parenting and family life, they could fall back on wisdom, or at least old wives' tales, that had been handed down for generations. But the pace of technological change has surpassed anyone's capacity to develop enough wisdom to handle it. We are stuffing our lives with technology's new promises, with no clear sense of whether technology will help us keep the promises we've already made."

The research reveals that children are spending an average of five hours on an electronic device (tablet, phone and computer) every day.

"Even at this amount, most parents say they are limiting the amount of time their kids spend on electronic devices (60 percent). Millennial parents — perhaps because they have younger children or perhaps because they are more likely to be immersed in and therefore experiencing their own angst around electronic usage — are more likely (73 percent) than Gen-Xer (57 percent) or Boomer parents (57 percent) to limit their children's time on electronic devices. Limiting time seems more popular than eliminating the devices: Most kids have phones. Nearly nine in 10 parents with teenagers (88 percent) say their teen has a phone and just under half of parents with preteens (48 percent) say their child does."

Aside from television watching, technology occupies a central place in many of the after-school activities of children, as 42 percent of parents say their children regularly play video games after school, 27 percent are on social media or texting with friends, and 25 percent are online other than for homework.

Nevertheless, children are still engaging in offline activity. Fifty-six percent spend time engaging with family members, 39 percent are playing informally, 32 percent are reading other than for homework, 23 percent are playing organized sports, and 22 percent are hanging out with friends.

The research also found that family time happens mostly in the living room. Sixty-five percent say they spend the most time as a family in this space, 15 percent say family time happens in the kitchen, and 14 percent cite the entertainment room.

"If we don't learn to put technology, in all its forms, in its proper place, we will miss out on many of the best parts of life in a family," warns Crouch. "Figuring out the proper place for technology in our particular family and stage of life requires discernment rather than a simple formula."

One-quarter of parents believe strongly that electronic devices are a significant disruption to their family meals. Nearly one-fifth somewhat agree.

"Technology is in its proper place when it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love," says Crouch. "Technology is in its proper place when it starts great conversations; when it helps us take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit; when it helps us acquire skills and mastery of domains that are the glory of human culture (sports, music, the arts, cooking, writing, accounting; the list could go on and on). Technology is in its proper place when it helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are part of and responsible for stewarding. Technology is in its proper place only when we use it with intention and care."