Children in Saudi Arabia can expect to receive their first mobile phone at the age of just seven, according to new research from Norton by Symantec.
The My First Device Report, which explored the challenges the first generation of “digital-first” parents face, also found that than three in four respondents in Saudi Arabia (82 percent) suggested parents are setting a bad example by spending too much time online.
It said parents feel guilty about the amount of time they spend online in front of their children, and their children are not shy about reprimanding them, according to the research.
Surveying nearly 7,000 parents across Europe and the Middle East (EMEA) with children aged between 5-16, the report also revealed that children in Saudi Arabia desire mobile screen time more than sweets.
“Modern parenting isn’t easy,” said Nick Shaw, vice president and general manager, Norton, EMEA. “The old challenges of getting children to eat their greens, get to bed on time and do their homework are all still there, but there is an added layer of technology that parents have to navigate.
"Unlike their children, most parents today didn’t grow up with connected devices like smartphones and tablets, which leaves them struggling with making and enforcing screen time rules.”
Norton’s research said that on average across Saudi Arabia, children spend close to three hours of their leisure time on mobile devices every day, close to an hour longer than the average amount of time spent playing outdoors.
The UK topped the charts with British children spending the most time in front of mobile devices while children in Saudi Arabia ranked third.
More than half of parents in Saudi Arabia said they believe mobile technology and mobile devices can help foster children’s problem solving and learning skills (60 percent), among the highest, with 64 percent saying that children being in charge of their own devices teaches them responsibility.
But it’s not all good news. More than half of parents in Saudi Arabia (53 percent) said mobile screen time affects their child’s quality of sleep.
Most parents do try to enforce rules around screen time but admit that they may be their own worst enemy, as they feel they fail in setting good examples for their children.
“Parents clearly see the benefit of mobile devices for their children, but also want to enforce healthy screen routines as they see the disadvantages smartphones and tablets can have on sleep and mental health,” added Shaw. “We all should be mindful of how much time we spend online and tackle the issue of excessive screen time, with parents setting a good example.”
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