Today's E-Moms: Engaged, Enabled, Entertained

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BlogHer Inc., in partnership with Parenting Magazine, conducted their second annual study of moms and technology in June 2011.  The findings show that moms are more engaged than ever with laptops, the Internet and mobile phones.  In fact, they have become the Chief Technology Officers for their families, overseeing households where children begin interacting with various electronic devices at an extremely early age; in some cases younger than two.

 

Methodology

We fielded an identical survey to two different populations:

–        Digital-savvy moms from the BlogHer Publishing Network:

  • 493 Moms 18-49

–        Parenting’s MomConnectionTM nationally projectable panel of mainstream moms:

  • 545 to women 18+

–        Total survey sample: 1038 women

 

Kids Start Interacting with Tech Earlier Every Year

In last year’s study we asked moms what age they thought kids should start using various electronic devices. The average in 2010 was age 15 for smart phones and 9 for an iPod.  However this year’s study showed a much higher incidence of younger children, even toddlers, interacting with their parent’s laptops and iPhones on a regular basis.  And younger moms (Gen Y) are much more likely to encourage this behavior.

 

% Whose Children Used Device by Age 2

Moms are highly engaged with social media, using Facebook (81% weekly or more) and blogs (70% weekly or more) and Twitter (45% weekly or more).  But power users (3+ times a day) are still more concentrated among the more digitally savvy BlogHer moms, who often act as a bellwether for media behaviors online.  Past studies show that the general online population (mainstream) catches up to BlogHer user behaviors within 6-12 months.

Connectivity is an Absolute Requirement for Moms

Moms bucket technology according to whether it is a necessity or luxury, with 88% saying that the Internet and computers are an absolute necessity in their lives.  Cell phones are nearly as high, with 79% of the moms classifying their mobile devices as “must have” items in their daily lives.  Digital cameras also scored high as a necessity (69%), illustrating the need for moms to document the lives of their families in pictures. Landline telephones (42%) and cable TV (33%) are considered less essential. Frequency of use is also high for interactive devices, with 71% of all moms saying they can’t go more than a day without using either the Internet or their cell phones.

% Saying Item is Necessity vs. Luxury

Passion for their laptops and mobile phones was evident in the open ended responses made by moms in this study.  The comments below represent a snap shot of the nearly 1,000 comments they offered, when asked “what form of technology is the most important to you on a daily basis?”

  • --“I work from home throughout the week, so my laptop is essential”
  • --“I love being able to contact most of my family instantly. I seriously have no idea how I lived without smart phones and the Internet”
  • --“I work from home throughout the week, so my laptop is essential”
  • --“My smart phone is my command central because I use it for so many things..GPS, email, camera, games and social media”

The mobile phone has become a “Swiss Army Knife” all purpose tool for moms

Making actual phone calls still tops the list for what moms consider the greatest benefit they get from their mobile phones (81%), while nearly as many (78%) like sending and receiving text messages.  Over half cited getting information instantly (53%) or checking email (50%) as an important benefit.   The importance of sending and receiving photos by cell phone also ranked high (43%).  And nearly one quarter of the moms in the sample (23%) actually use their mobile phone to entertain or distract extremely young children in a public setting.  When given the option to admit that their mobile phone was “not a benefit, it’s a handcuff and I’m tethered to it”, only 9% chose to do so.

In a hypothetical setting, moms pick laptops and smart phones

We asked moms to imagine what kind of electronic devices they would prefer, if they were confined to a tropical island for a year (which magically had access to electricity and wifi).  Laptops (43%) came in first by a wide margin for this conceptual exercise, with smart phones (29%) in second place.  More traditional forms of media ranked last; only 2% wanted TV with cable, and 1% selected TV with DVD.

However, moms still think their kids would prefer electronic entertainment on a tropical island.  They listed TV and DVD in first place as the technology their kids would prefer (20%), laptops second (16%) and videogames a close third (15%).

Interestingly, only 4% of the moms in the survey said that they would not want any electronic devices at all in this setting.

Entertainment Dominates Family Group Activity

While interactive devices are tops in importance for moms individually, traditional entertainment still dominates as a group activity. Families still enjoy gathering for movies on DVD (84%) or watching television (76%).  However even in this setting, new media is becoming an important source for fun, with 45% saying they now enjoy watching YouTube videos together.

In spite of the growing attachment to technology, the vast majority of moms agreed that the form of communication they use most with their often with their children is good old fashioned in-person conversation.  Over 90% are talking face to face with their kids every day, while text messages, Facebook, email and even hand written notes take a back seat to human interaction with their kids.

For more details and a PDF copy of the complete study, please click on the link at the top of this post.

 

 

 

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