From Twitter and Instagram to email and push alerts, mobile phones demand constant attention. Yet while such devices have transformed the lives of families across the globe, teenagers in Mexico report feeling more “addicted” to their phones than their peers in other countries, according to a new study.
The study, titled “The New Normal: Parents, Teens and Mobile Devices in Mexico,” was conducted by the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and Common Sense, a nonprofit family media research firm, and was based on a survey of more than 1,200 Mexican teens and parents.
Among the key findings was that two-thirds of parents and teens in Mexico said they use their mobile device almost all the time.
Compared to the other countries surveyed, more teens in Mexico feel they spend too much time on their mobile devices. In Mexico, 45 percent of teens said they spend too much time on their mobile devices, compared with 39 percent in the United States, 32 percent in the United Kingdom and 17 percent in Japan.
“It’s clear that mobile devices are playing a large role in shaping family life. They’ve become the backdrop for our interactions and our day-to-day living,” Michael Robb, senior director of research at Common Sense, told NBC News. “So it’s important for us to better understand how this technology is affecting us and the quality of our relationships, so that we can maximize the benefits of mobile devices and minimize the harms.”
The study also found that more than 70 percent of teens and parents said they feel distracted by their phones at least once a day.
The latest study is part of a global mapping project that records digital media use among families across different regions. Thus far, USC Annenberg and Common Sense have conducted surveys in the U.S., Japan, and the U.K., in addition to Mexico.
Mobile device use remains high and is rewiring daily life, regardless of the country surveyed.
“One thing we’ve found in common across all the countries is the number of parents and teens who say they wake up in the middle of the night and check their phones,” Robb said. “That’s not good for a host of reasons. We know that sleep is critical and that interrupting your sleep can be connected to poor academic achievement, impaired cognitive functioning, obesity and depression.”
While Robb recommends that parents establish times when mobile use is off limits, such as meals, he stresses that there are many positive aspects of mobile phone use and that ultimately, parents and children must find a way to balance the pros and cons.
“It’s not all bad. In the same survey, we found that Mexican parents and teens named positive things about mobile phones, such as keeping in close contact with friends and family, and school and college preparation and helping students learn,” Robb said. “There’s a lot of things people feel positively about, but it’s difficult to juggle that with the constant pull of our devices.”