Parents in the UAE are struggling to manage the amount of time their children spend on connected devices, despite over half saying mobile screen time affects their child's quality of sleep and has other issues.
A survey by Norton shows that on average, children in the UAE get their first device aged seven years, one of the youngest age ranges in EMEA, despite the fact that parents are concerned about device impact on children's energy levels (42%), social skills (40%) and mental health (37%).
The Norton report also found that children in the UAE desire mobile screen time more than sweets, and that they spend more time in front of a mobile screen than playing outdoors. Parents in the UAE are also the most likely in the EMEA region to say they want to set limits and parental controls on connected devices (71%), and to want more advice and support to help them protect their children online (82%).
The Norton My First Device Research Report gathered data from just under 7,000 parents of children aged 5-16 years, across the EMEA region, including 1,012 parents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The survey shows parents are struggling to set rules and limits for their children, despite their concerns about the impact of devices.
"Modern parenting isn't easy," says 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."
Parents in the UAE saw benefits to children having their own mobile devices, with 62% saying that mobile devices can help foster children's problem solving and learning skills and 72% saying that children being in charge of their own devices teaches them responsibility.
Parents also 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 report. The survey found that more than three in four respondents in the UAE (78%) suggested parents are setting a bad example by spending too much time online, and more than half (53%) admitted they have been told off by their own children for their behaviour.
"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 Nick 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. We found that 69% of parents in the UAE already set ‘tech free' times or days in their house, second highest number among EMEA markets, when everyone stays away from their gadgets, which offers a great opportunity to reassess our dependence on devices."
The Norton report also suggests ways to manage better device usage such as setting limits on how long children can use devices for and for how long, and discussing safe usage practices.