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A focus on family life in Australia: 2019

Maori family with twins
Credit: iStock.com/nazar_ab

Our second national survey of family life in Australia has confirmed that despite the rise of mobile devices it is television which is still occupying children’s screen time.

Parents surveyed in the First Five Years Snapshot of Australian Families, said 64% of children’s screen time is used on television followed by 24% on tablet and 9% on smartphone.

When it comes to screen time as a whole 15% of children are being occupied by two or more hours a day of screen time, however 8% of parents never use screen time and only 1% have more than four hours a day.

Parents say they are often using this time to complete household chores (88%). Other popular uses of this time include cooking (72%), “me time” (23%) and making phone calls (21%).

It seems that spending too much time in front of a screen may also be a concern for parents with more than a quarter (28%) revealing exercise and weight loss is leaving them very or extremely concerned. Also, in the top five concerns were work/life balance (23%), finance (23%), and chores/housework (19%).

The last survey revealed people were chasing more time – with their children and for themselves. That trend has only strengthened with the number of people believing more quality time for themselves would positively influence how happy they feel in their role as a parent jumping from 62% to 65%. This was followed by more quality time with their child at 58% (up from 53%).

First Five Years managing editor Belinda Reilly says more than 1000 families from across Australia responded to the survey. Of these, about 80 per cent were nuclear families with blended families, grandparent families, single parent families and same sex families also represented.

Of the 1000+ parents who responded to the survey, they had children under 15 and almost 95 per cent were women. Most came from double income families with one parent working full time and the other working either full or part time.

When asked to reflect on family life and describe how they felt, just under half (49%) of respondents said they felt happy (down from 54% in the last survey), 39% said they were stressed (up from 36%) while 37% said they were overwhelmed (up from 34%).

Parents told us last time and reiterated again that at times they are struggling, with 39% of parents reporting they have struggled to meet essential expenses like food, mortgage/rent, utility bills, child care or important medical care over the past 12 months

A further 26% didn’t believe they had enough money to purchase things they really wanted, after they had taken essential expenses out of their budget.

Time was a theme through the survey

Family time was lacking, with 48% of parents saying they spent less time with their children than their parents spent with them, although this number had dropped from 53% in the last survey.

When it came to spending time together as a family, it was generally during mealtimes.

Dinner was where almost a third of families found time to gather. The night time meal took priority for the 32% (down from 37%) of families who ate together every night and 39 per cent insisting on a family dinner most nights.

However, breakfast wasn’t as much of a priority with only 11% of families eating breakfast together every morning, and 32 per cent of parents only finding time for family breakfasts on the weekends.

Reading with their children is becoming increasingly important with 63% of parents setting aside one-on-one time to read with their child for at least 20 minutes. This has risen from 59.5% in the last survey. However, 14% still said they rarely or never spend this time reading with their children.

Other Snapshot of Australian Families findings:

Discipline

72% of parents would rarely or never intervene if they saw someone else’s child misbehaving in public and their parent was unaware.

Behaviour

38% of parents say they sometimes, often, or always offer their child rewards such as money or toys to get him/her to do what they want.

Future

51.5% of parents believe their children face a tougher future than the one they have grown up in. Only 3.1% thought their children would have fewer problems, and 45% thought the level of challenges would remain the same, they would just be different.

Screen time

While children are engaged in screen parents are using the time to:

  1. To complete household chores.
  2. To cook.
  3. To get "me time".
  4. To make phone calls.
  5. To work at paid employment.
  6. To do shopping.