New USC Annenberg report points to global impact of digital device use

First Study to Compare Japan and U.S. Data Reveals Teens, Parents Feel Distracted and Addicted

Los Angeles, September 25, 2017 – The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism today released the first-of-its-kind study titled The New Normal: Parents, Teens and Digital Devices in Japan, based on a comprehensive survey of 1,200 teens and parents in Japan revealing that many teens and parents feel digital devices are a source of concern, anxiety and conflict. Conducted last April, this is the first such study of teens and families in Japan, where 90% of parents and teens own a smart phone, and the first to compare those insights to existing U.S. data from Common Sense Media, a leading independent nonprofit, on digital media use among families in North America.

A key finding from the new research is the degree to which Japanese teens and parents feel distracted by — and even feel addicted to — their mobile device. In the survey, parents and teens were asked about their own media habits, and to reflect on the habits of their family members. When asked about their children ages 13-18, most parents say they feel their teens are addicted to mobile devices — and many indicate that they feel addicted themselves. In fact, 1 in 3 teens in both countries think their parents are addicted to their mobile devices.

“Advances in digital media and mobile devices are changing the way we engage not only with the world around us, but also with the people who are the closest to us,” said Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “These shifts are happening faster and more dramatically than any change in recent history. To truly understand their impact on our relationships, we needed to dig deeper into the media habits and attitudes of parents and teens.”

In addition to tracking addiction, distraction and conflict, the study also explored questions related to the potential benefits of device use, as well as ubiquity and usage. The trends uncovered in Japan often mirror the results of two similar studies conducted in 2016 in the United States by Common Sense Media. Specifically, the comparative study found:

Feeling Addicted. In Japan (45%) and in the U.S. (50%), one out of every two teens feel addicted to their devices and the majority of parents (61/59%) agree that their teens are addicted. Notably, a higher percentage of Japanese parents (38%) than American parents (27%) feel addicted themselves.

Source of Distraction. When asked if their devices are a source of distraction, 72% of American teens say they feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages, and other notifications — a number that is significantly higher than the percentage of Japanese teens (48%). Although their numbers are still significant, Japanese parents and teens are less likely to feel that the other gets distracted by mobile devices than do families in America.

Conflict and Worry. Data showed that digital devices are a greater source of conflict among teens and parents in the U.S. than in Japan. Here, 1 in 3 families have an argument every day. More teens in America also feel that mobile device use has hurt their relationship with their parents. In Japan, more parents (almost 1:4) feel their family relationships have been hurt by mobile device use.

Benefits of Mobile Devices. A cultural difference illuminated by the USC Annenberg study was the level to which families see the benefits of mobile devices. Compared to just 25% of Japanese parents, results from similar 2016 studies in the U.S. indicate most American parents (88%) have an optimistic view of the benefits of technology, including mobile devices, in terms of helping their children acquire new skills.

“Digital devices are changing the way we interact with each other and it is important to understand the impact that is having on family relationships,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “Both in Japan and the U.S., we have found that that kids and parents feel addicted to their devices, that it is causing daily conflict in homes, and that families are concerned about the consequences. It is important to continue to study and talk about these issues so that parents understand they are not alone and that there is information available to help them make smart choices for their families.”

“Our study raises some critical questions about the impact of digital devices in family life,” said Dean Willow Bay. “And while the cultural nuances may vary from country to country, this is clearly a global issue.”

About the Report

The New Normal: Parents, Teens and Digital Devices is based on an April 2017 national online survey conducted on behalf of USC Annenberg in Japan by Dentsu Macromill Insight (DMI). It details the media habits and attitudes of Japanese parents and teens age 13 to 18. The survey was conducted among parents in Japan with at least one child in middle or high school who own a mobile phone and uses it at least once a week. Participants who opted into DMI’s database were randomly selected after being screened for eligibility criteria. The sample included children age 13 to 18 (n=600) and their parents (n=600). The sample distribution was weighed by age group. Once collected, the data was compared to the results of a 2016 Common Sense Media research briefs conducted in the United States titled “The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens” and “Technology Addiction”.

About Common Sense Media

Common Sense is committed to making kids the nation's top priority. We are a trusted guide for the families, educators, and advocates who help kids thrive. We provide resources to harness the power of media, technology, and public policy to improve the well-being of every child.

About the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a global leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,200 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals across a broad scope of academic inquiry. The school’s comprehensive curriculum emphasizes the core skills of communication leadership, innovation, service and entrepreneurship and draws upon the resources of a networked university located in the media capital of the world.

For more information, please contact:

Gretchen Parker McCartney
USC Annenberg
Tel: 410-215-1931

Lisa Cohen
Common Sense Media
Tel. 310-395-2544