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

Playing outside and swimming outrank watching television as kids' most enjoyed summer activity, according to parents

Aug 05, 2015, 05:05 ET from The Harris Poll

NEW YORK, Aug. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- 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. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

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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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

About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, please visit our new website,

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