New survey reveals screen time and social media habits of Australian parents

22 Jan 2020
More than 45 per cent of Australian parents spend between one and five-plus hours a day on screens in front of their children a new survey by leading online mental health service ReachOut has found.

The national survey of 1015 adults with children aged between 12 and 18 also found that one in three parents are spending between one and five-plus hours on social media every day.

The survey of screen time habits found that:

  • 6% of parents spent less than 15 minutes a day on a smartphone, laptop or other device in front of their children;

  • 4% spent less than an hour;

  • 31% spent one to two hours;

  • 2% spent three to hours; and

  • 1% spent more than five hours.

On social media use, the survey found that:

  • 1% of parents spent less than 15 minutes a day on social media;

  • 4% between 15 and 30 minutes;

  • 4% between half an hour and 60 minutes;

  • 6% between one and two hours;

  • 9% between three and four hours; and

  • 5% more than five hours.

ReachOut Chief Executive Officer Ashley de Silva said the survey findings highlighted a potential disconnect between some parents’ concerns about their child’s social media and technology use versus their own online behaviours.

“Parents often raise concerns with us over the amount of time their teenager is spending on screens and social media but what this survey shows is that parents are also spending a significant amount of time on social media and on devices”.

“This is not about making parents feel guilty. Many adults are on screens for work-related or important social purposes. However, the role-modelling they play for their children cannot be underestimated. We want parents to use these survey results as an opportunity to become more mindful of their own technology and social media use, and to start a conversation with their teenagers about how the whole family can use technology in a positive way.”

The survey found that cyber-security campaigns are working, with 86 percent of parents reporting having conversations with their teenager about social media use including topics such as cyberbullying, protecting personal information and acceptable online behaviour.

“Now is a great time to figure out how much time each member of the family is spending on screens and social media, talk about it and agree as a family what’s acceptable – both in terms of screen time as well as what they and their kids are doing online. Safe use of social media is also an important conversation for parents and young people when it comes to bullying, but also for general wellbeing as we know that too much time on social media can have negative impacts on young people,” he said.

Commentator and author, Rebecca Sparrow, speaks to parents and young people every day about the issues that are most relevant to them, including technology use where she emphasises the importance of boundaries.

“When it comes to social media and smartphone use what's clear is that this is a family-wide issue. We know that social media and devices can have a tendency to 'white-ant' our lives as they eat into important in-person moments with our family and friends. The goal for parents and kids - is to find the balance and put clear boundaries in place in how and when we use our phones,” she said.

ReachOut Parents is a digital mental health service helping parents and carers to provide support for young people. The free service is available 24/7 online and includes articles, self-help tips, anonymous forums to chat to other parents and a free telephone coaching service.


Media contact

Tessa Anderssen / 0411 708 587 /

Useful ReachOut links for parents

About ReachOut

ReachOut is Australia’s leading online mental health organisation for young people and their parents. Their practical support, tools and tips help young people get through anything from everyday issues to tough times – and the information they offer parents makes it easier for parents to help their teenagers, too.

ReachOut has been changing the way people access help since launching as the world’s first online mental health service more than 20 years ago. Everything they create is based on the latest evidence and designed with experts, and young people or their parents. This is why ReachOut’s digital self-help tools are trusted, relevant and easy to use.

In 2018, 2.4 million Australians visited or around 200,000 people every month.