New National Survey and Listening Sessions Reveal Parents’ Mindsets on the Internet and Digital Media

ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 10, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — National PTA today released the results of a national survey and listening sessions exploring parents’ mindsets on the internet and digital media. The survey and listening sessions, which included parents and guardians with children in grades K-12 in public schools, were conducted by Edge Research. National PTA commissioned the research as part of the five-year anniversary of the association’s PTA Connected initiative.


National PTA logo (PRNewsfoto/National PTA)

Key findings of the survey and listening sessions show:

  • Parents are conflicted when it comes to the internet and digital media. They understand its value and the role it plays in their children’s lives. However, they also see its potential dangers and negative impacts. This tension lies at the core of how parents try to navigate online safety.

  • Middle school represents the “launch pad” for increased access to social media and other platforms. However, parents allow a great deal of digital interaction when their children are in elementary school (or younger). As digital media usage increases as children reach high school, parent monitoring of their children’s digital activities decreases significantly.

  • Although parents believe they can identify appropriate content—and they trust their children online—they are open to assistance. Majorities of parents indicated in the survey they would support having resources shared with their children to help with online safety, and over eight-in-ten parents reported they would be at least somewhat interested in guidance on what mental health services are available to help with issues their child may be having online. 

“Children and youth are increasingly online, and while the internet is a space for fostering learning, creativity and community, it also presents unique risks. The findings of our survey and listening sessions demonstrate that parents are grappling with the benefits of the internet and digital media and managing their children’s online activities and internet use,” said Yvonne Johnson, president of National PTA.

In the survey…

  • 31% of parents reported they believe overall the internet has a mostly positive impact on children, 27% of parents reported they believe overall the internet has a mostly negative impact on children and 42% of parents were somewhere in the middle.

  • When asked where internet safety ranks among a series of other parent worries, 65% of parents surveyed indicated they worry a lot or somewhat about their child’s safety online, and 60% of parents surveyed indicated they worry a lot or somewhat about the impact of technology use and the internet on their child’s well-being.

These worries top parents’ concerns, ranking higher than worries about their child experiencing stress, anxiety or depression; their child experiencing violence or being bullied at school; and their child being behind academically for their grade level, among other worries.

Additional findings show that …

  • Among concerns pertaining to their child’s safety online, communicating with adults they don’t know online tops parents’ concerns, with 57% of parents surveyed reporting they are concerned about this. When it comes to activities their children participate in online, most parents report their children watching videos, watching TV and gaming, with 86%, 73% and 65% of parents reporting these activities, respectively.

  • While 71% of parents reported in the survey that they trust their own child to make good choices online, only 35% of parents reported they trust other children who interact with their child online to make good choices, and 63% of parents reported it is too easy for teens/tweens to get around parental controls.

  • 63% of parents reported they monitor their child’s online or digital activities extremely or pretty closely. However, less than half (47%) of parents of high school students indicated they monitor their child’s online activities to the same degree.

  • When it comes to ways they monitor and manage their child’s online activities and internet use, 65% of parents reported they talk to their child about their online activities and 51% of parents reported they set limits for screen time. 

When comparing parents’ perspectives with data from teens and tweens themselves gathered by Boston Children’s Digital Wellness Lab, the findings of the research suggest that parents do not have a realistic picture of their children’s online activities.

  • Only 7% of parents of children in middle school and 8% of parents of children in high school reported in the survey that their child had made plans to meet up with someone they met online.

  • Only 13% of parents of children in middle school and high school reported their children have communicated with children they don’t know online.

  • On the other hand, 50% of teens and tweens have reported they would likely get together with friends they met online, and almost three-in-ten teens and tweens consider people they have never met in person but met online as friends.

While parents reported in the survey that they feel most responsible for their child’s online safety (89%), most parents (60%) reported that they would like guidance or support when it comes to helping keep their child safe online, especially parents of children in elementary school (64%). Most parents also reported they would be likely to go to their child’s school, counselor and/or teachers for guidance in this arena, with 68%, 70% and 69% of parents choosing these sources, respectively. Additionally, parents indicated in the focus groups that they feel schools should help them monitor and protect their children online since schools often provide students with devices on which to do school or homework or assign work that requires going online.

“These findings provide valuable insight into parents’ concerns and perspectives around the internet and digital media and as our association looks ahead to where we go in the next five years with our PTA Connected initiative,” added Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director. “National PTA remains committed to making sure families’ voices and perspectives are heard and included and to providing the knowledge, tools and resources families need to make the best decisions for their children. And we are committed to helping children act safely, responsibly and thoughtfully online to create a kinder, more inclusive online community for all.”

About PTA Connected
National PTA launched its PTA Connected initiative in 2018 to formalize and build on the association’s work in the digital space in response to the growing needs and interest of parents nationwide. Through the initiative, National PTA has been focused on digital access and equity, digital safety and well-being, digital literacy and data privacy. With the generous support of corporate funders, National PTA has awarded over $1.5 million dollars in funding to PTAs across the country to help them host PTA Connected events in their school communities, helping thousands of families understand digital issues affecting their children; have open, honest and ongoing conversations about digital safety and citizenship; and connecting them with tools research and support to help them make the best decisions for their households. The events have also facilitated community discussions, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing among parents. To learn more about PTA Connected, visit PTA.org/Connected and watch this video spotlighting the past five years of the initiative.

About the Survey
The online survey was conducted by Edge Research among a nationwide sample of 1,415 parents and guardians with children in grades K-12 in public school. The survey, fielded in English and Spanish, included oversamples of Latino/a parents, representing a mix of acculturation levels, and Black parents.  Data were weighted to be representative of public-school parents in the U.S. The survey was fielded May 6-23, 2024.

About the Listening Sessions
Three 90-minute-long listening sessions were conducted in February 2024, including one with parents of children in grades K-5, one with parents of children in grades 6-8 and one with parents of children in grades 9-12. Listening session participants represented a mix of gender, race and ethnicity. The listening sessions were designed to serve as a companion to the national survey to bring the survey to life with stories, verbatims and observations that capture where parents are at this moment in time.

About National PTA
National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth. For more information, visit PTA.org.

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SOURCE National PTA