Parents’ active involvement in what their children are exposed to in the media can reduce negative effects associated with that exposure. However, according to new research at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, the majority of parents do not often use active strategies to limit media time or content. Results from a survey of 1,800 parents nationwide were presented today at the Pediatric Academic Society annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Shari Barkin, M.D., a pediatrician at Wake Forest Baptist’s Brenner Children’s Hospital, and her colleagues completed research asking 1,800 parents across the country about the number of hours their children watch media, how often they restrict the time or content of their child’s media usage, discuss program content with their children, and allow unlimited media viewing in their home. Media was defined as TV, videos, computer games, and electronic hand-held devices.
The majority (59 percent) of parents, with children aged 2 to 11, used a combination of all approaches. The remaining parents indicated that they preferred to use one specific approach, according to the survey. Twenty-three percent of parents used restrictive viewing only, 11 percent used instructive styles only and 7 percent used unlimited media viewing as their strategy. More than a third of families (36 percent) reported having a television in their child’s bedroom but did not associate this with unlimited media exposure, Barkin said.
The results also showed that 72 percent of parents worry about media use and confirmed that the more parents were concerned about the negative effects of the media, the more likely they were to limit or discuss the content of TV programs with their children.
Age of the child also factored into what type of strategy was used to help monitor their child’s media usage. “Not surprisingly, parents reported using more restrictive strategies in younger children and a more multi-faceted approach for older children,” she said.
“How you were raised also played a big role in choosing a strategy for your child,” Barkin said. “If you were allowed to watch unlimited TV as a child, you were much more likely to allow your child to watch more media.”
The number of parents in the household also factored into what approach was used. “Households with only one parent were more likely to use unlimited viewing as opposed to households with two parents where both adults could actively monitor their children’s media usage,” Barkin said.
“This study tells us that pediatricians should educate parents about being more actively involved how their children use the media.”
Media exposure has been associated with aggression, fear, sleep disturbances, obesity and decreased attention.
The survey was conducted by the Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS) network and surveyed 1,800 parents with children ages two to 11 in 27 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.