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The Next Generation is Already Plugged In—Here’s How Their Millennial Parents Feel About It

Tech is already a major part of the next generation’s lives. But how do their Millennial parents feel about it?


TL;DR

  • Kids’ screen time has shot up since lockdowns began—and their Millennial parents are worried about it
  • The majority of Millennial parents have already given their kid(s) a tech device, showing that the next generation is already plugged in
  • Smartphone use among kids is likely to rise soon

Tech has become an inevitable part of young people’s day-to-day, and their lives only become more screen-centric during the pandemic when staying entertained was a top priority, and devices the top way they could fill their time. But while we’ve explored Gen Z and Millennials’ tech focus in behavioral reports from our social media monitor to our TV and entertainment report, the next generations’ screen time skyrocketed in 2020 and 2021 as well, as Millennial parents sought ways to keep their kids entertained during lockdowns. In fact, a (U.S.-based) survey reported that nearly half of children aged 5 to 15 were spending more than six hours a day in front of a screen at the start of lockdowns—a 500% increase over pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, YPulse’s WE Millennial Parenting research found that 62% of Western Europe’s Millennial parents say they let their kids use screens even more during lockdowns, and 45% say they gave up on a lot of rules for their kids during lockdowns, including limits on screentime. What’s more, the majority of kids are already on social media, according to their Millennial parents, and the majority of parents are watching video content with their children several times a week or more. And beyond entertainment, life in a pandemic has pushed education online, too, meaning even when they’re learning, the next gen is plugged in.

So how do Millennial parents feel about all of this? Long before COVID, Millennial parents expressed concern about their kids’ overly tech-centric lives, and sought to create boundaries around how much screen time they get and at what age they get it. And though the pandemic made this more difficult, Western Europe’s Millennial parents still have some concerns:

The majority of Millennial parents in Western Europe worry about their children having too much screen time.

Of course, kids’ screentime was a hotly debated topic before the pandemic as well. In 2019, the World Health Organization warned parents about the detriment of too much screentime on their kids’ development and recommended setting severe limits. While U.K. experts and parents pushed back against the claims, this hasn’t stopped Europe’s Millennial parents from feeling uneasy about how much time their kids are spending in front of their glowing boxes: 78% of Millennial parents agree with the statement, “I worry about my children spending too much time looking at screens,” and 79% say that kids these days have too many devices. This is on par with how Millennial parents in North America feel about screentime for kids. But over the past few years, we’ve seen North American parents’ worries diminish, which could indicate that globally, parents are growing increasingly comfortable with—and or least used to—their kids’ tech-first lives. After all, despite their concerns…

The vast majority have already given their kids at least one tech device.

It goes without saying that if kids are spending more time in front of screens, it’s because they have access to the devices that facilitate it. Now, more than four in five kids in Western Europe have at least one tech device of their own, with tablets being the top device Millennial parents report giving them (51%) followed by smartphones (34%). Tablets have been a kid-favorite device for a while now, largely because kids’ screen time is dominated by video streaming and gaming. In fact, in our WE social media monitor, Millennial parents told us that YouTube is the top social platform their kids are using, followed by WhatsApp and TikTok. In fact, though kids are spending most of their time on tablets, the report also found that interest in them is waning—along with video game consoles—as smartphones become the go-to tech device for all things entertainment. Our WE mobile/app behavior report found that 63% of 13-39-year-olds are using their smartphones to watch video content daily, and that 94% are playing mobile games—far more than watch or play on other devices. Gen Z is even more likely to be using their phones for entertainment, indicating that smartphone use could become even more ubiquitous among younger generations. But while a third of Millennial parents have already given their kids a smartphone, most say they’ll wait a little longer…

They’re planning on giving their kids their first smartphone at around the age of 12.

Millennials in Western Europe tell us they didn’t get their first smartphone until they were 16 years old, but they’re planning on giving their kids one much earlier than that. On average, Millennial parents across Western Europe are aiming for age 12.5, but there are some differences across regions. Parents in Germany plan to give their kids a smartphone at the youngest age (11.6), while Spanish parents say they’ll wait until their kids are 14. Overall, 5% say they’ll never give their kid a smartphone, but this is much higher in the U.K., where 11% of parents plan to hold out. On the whole, though, we expect to see the next generation in possession of their own smartphones sooner rather than later—whether their parents like it or not. =

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE tech/device usage behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.