October 02, 2019

Mobile devices are altering family life in Mexico, according to a first-of-its-kind study conducted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and Common Sense that examines device use, habits, and attitudes of Mexican teens and their parents. More Mexican parents expressed concern about their teens' use of mobile devices, and more teens reported feeling distracted and "addicted" to their phones than families in three other countries: the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

The study, titled The New Normal: Parents, Teens, and Mobile Devices in Mexico, is based on a survey of more than 1,200 Mexican teens and parents, and was led by USC Annenberg dean Willow Bay and Common Sense founder and CEO James P. Steyer. Mexico is the fourth country surveyed—following the U.S., Japan, and the U.K.—in the global mapping project designed to advance a cross-cultural exploration of family digital media engagement.

Close to half of teens (45 percent) surveyed in Mexico said they feel they spend too much time on their mobile devices; half said they "feel addicted"; and 77 percent of teens said they feel distracted daily by their mobile phones. Four out of five Mexican parents agreed that their teens are distracted by these devices daily, and almost two-thirds said they feel they spend too much time on them and believe they are "addicted."

On the other hand, Mexican parents and teens are doing more to ensure healthy use of mobile devices, with 33 percent of parents and 29 percent of teens saying they "very often" try to reduce their time on their devices, compared with just 12 percent of parents and 7 percent of teens in the U.S. In addition, Mexican families are more likely to have family rules on the use of mobile devices than those in other countries studied.

Key findings from the Mexico study reveal that:

  •     Mobile devices are rewiring daily life for teens and their parents. Two-thirds of parents (71%) and teens (67%) in Mexico said they use their mobile device almost all the time. Close to half of teens (47%) and parents (46%) said they check their device several times an hour.
  •     Mobile devices are interrupting sleep for parents and teens alike. During the night, more than a third of teens (35%) and parents (34%) said they wake up to check their device at least once for something other than the time: text messages, email, or social media.
  •     Most teens and parents admit that their phones are a daily source of distraction. Three in four teens (77%) and parents (75%) said they feel distracted by their mobile device at least once a day. The vast majority of parents (82%) said their teen is distracted daily, including more than two-thirds (69%) who said their teen is distracted several times a day. Over half of teens (56%) said their parents are distracted by their device daily.
  •     Parents in Mexico are concerned about their teens' mobile device use. Almost two-thirds of parents (64%) said they feel their teen spends too much time on their mobile device and believed they are "addicted" to their device (62%). Almost a third of teens (31%) said they think their parents are "addicted" to their devices. Notably, almost three-quarters of parents who say they "feel addicted" to their device have a child who "feels addicted" too, creating households where the entire family is more likely to "feel addicted" to their mobile devices.
  •     More teens in Mexico feel they spend too much time on their mobile devices, when compared with teens in the other countries surveyed. In Mexico, 45% of teens said they spend too much time on their mobile devices, compared with 39% in the U.S., 32% in the U.K., and 17% in Japan.

"Mobile devices are at the center of life for Mexican families as they are for families in the U.S., the U.K., and Japan," said Bay, the dean at USC. "Parents today are facing unprecedented challenges navigating both their children's and their own mobile device use, and we're seeing that in Mexico, for example, over half of parents feel their teen's mobile device use has negatively impacted family meals, conversations, and activities."

"Our aim with this research is to offer a snapshot of Mexican parents' and teens' mobile device habits, attitudes, and opinions set in a cross-cultural context and to generate further discussion about how devices and technology are changing the way Mexican parents and teenagers interact in a culture that treasures family," said Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense. "We hope to help guide families around the world toward healthy use and balance in today's interconnected communities."

Bay and Steyer presented the study's key findings today at the Centro de Cultura Digital in Mexico City.

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