The Bluetooth-Equipped, Battery-Operated Babysitter

Many parents have turned to smartphones and tablets to keep children occupied

Sep 18, 2013, 13:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans' love affair with smartphones and tablets shows no sign of abating. Over half (52%) own or use the former, with one in three owning and using the latter (33%). These ownership figures rise considerably when looking specifically at parents of children under 18, with seven in ten (69%) confirming smartphone ownership and 44% indicating tablet usage. But is it just their own personal use driving this segment's higher ownership levels?

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While it may or may not be a reason to purchase such devices, many parents seem to have found them useful for "controlling" a very specific crowd: over six in ten (61%) have ever used a smartphone (47%) and/or a tablet (44%) to keep their children under 18 occupied, entertained or distracted. Nearly two in ten have used a standard mobile phone (18%) or an eReader (17%) to do so, and 14% have used other mobile devices, while 20% have never done so with any device.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,286 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 14 and 19, 2013 by Harris Interactive. (Full results, including data tables, can be found here)

But it's one thing to trust your own child with your tech (or at least resign yourself to the occasional cracked screen as an added cost of bringing up baby), and quite another to put such devices into other children's – and, some might argue, fate's – hands:

  • Far fewer parents of kids under 18 (23%), and a similar percentage of Americans overall (20%) have ever used a smartphone (14% each) and/or a tablet (13% parents of children <18, 12% Americans) to keep a family member's child occupied.
  • When it comes to a friend's child (again under the age of 18), Americans are even less likely to employ such tactics, with one in ten (10%) saying they have ever done so with a smartphone (7%) and/or tablet (5%). It's worth noting, however, that those with their own children under 18 (14%) are nearly twice as likely as those without (8%) to ever do so with their smartphone (11% with, 6% without) and/or tablet (7% with, 4% without).

When those who have ever used an electronic device to keep a child occupied are asked the age of the youngest child they have ever employed this tactic with, three in ten (29%) say age two or under, one-third (34%) point to the three to five age range and two in ten (20%) say six to nine.

Wait – that thing in my pocket can also do stuff for me?

But of course, smartphones are also capable of far less childish pursuits; that said, even in everyday smartphone uses, those with children under 18 stand apart from those without on several habits, showing a stronger likelihood to regularly use them for...

  • Mapping or navigation functions (71% among those with children under 18, 62% among those without),
  • Social media (68% and 56%, respectively),
  • Find or research restaurants (52% and 42%, respectively),
  • Watch videos (50% and 39%, respectively), and
  • Purchase goods or services (33%, and 21%, respectively).

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between August 14 and 19, 2013 among 2,286 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, Harris Interactive 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 Interactive 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 the Harris Interactive 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 Harris Interactive.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #64, September 18, 2013
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Harris Interactive
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SOURCE Harris Interactive