Advances in digital media and mobile devices and the rising power of social media are changing the way we engage not only with the world around us, but also with the people who are the closest to us. The patterns of daily life have been forever altered by the ubiquity of digital devices. These shifts are happening faster and more dramatically than any change in recent history, and they are having an impact on people of all ages.

Smartphones and mobile devices have become a powerful presence and are rewiring our most personal relationships, including between parents and kids. A new generation of parents faces unprecedented challenges in managing digital media in their own lives and in the lives of their children.

To truly understand the impact of technology on our relationships, we need to dig deeper into the media habits and attitudes of parents and teens. For many years, Common Sense Media has conducted research on children’s media use in the United States. In April 2017, as we began to consider our role at USC’s Global Conference in Tokyo, which examines the accelerating impact of technology on our lives, USC Annenberg launched its own study of teens and parents in Japan. We hope to advance a cross-cultural exploration of the global phenomenon of family digital media engagement.

How much time are parents and kids spending with media each day? Do we feel addicted to our devices? Is media use causing family stress and arguments? Are kids feeling neglected by their parents’ media use?

These are the kinds of questions we set out to answer with our collaboration titled The New Normal: Parents, Teens, and Digital Devices in Japan. In order to give us a true comparison of media use in the two countries, we polled 1,200 Japanese parents and teens to find out how the saturation of cell phones and other devices in family life is playing out in homes and child-parent relationships.

What did we discover? To put it simply, media and technology are at the center of life for Japanese families. For example, we found:

  • The average daily mobile device use for teens is approximately 4.5 hours and for parents 3 hours, and 90 percent of parents and teens have their own smartphones.

  • 45 percent of teens feel addicted to their mobile devices, and 38 percent of parents feel addicted to their mobile devices.

  • At least a few times a week, 60 percent of parents feel their teens get distracted by devices and don’t pay attention when they are together; 25 percent of teens say the same about their parents.

Clearly, our always-on media environment is presenting challenges for Japanese families. In fact, this may be happening all over the world.

In the United States, for example, we conducted a similar survey and found that 59 percent of parents feel their teens are addicted to their mobile devices and 27 percent feel addicted to their mobile devices. Twenty-eight percent of U.S. teens feel their parents are addicted to their mobile devices, and 50 percent feel addicted to their own devices. Similar concerns exist around conflict, distraction, and impact on relationships.

Technology isn’t going anywhere, which makes it all the more important to pay attention to these challenges and the implications for families and communities. The more we discuss our experiences and study the impact, the more information we will have to help families be aware of potential dangers, set realistic boundaries, and role-model healthy behaviors around media and technology.

Together, we set out to deepen our understanding of the impact of digital media globally. We are hopeful that this new report sparks a wave of interest and action on this topic both in Japan and throughout the world.

You can read the full report here.