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 are published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Shari Barkin, M.D., a pediatrician at Wake Forest Baptist’s Brenner Children’s Hospital, and the Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS) Network conducted 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 television, videos, computer games, and electronic hand-held devices.
The majority (59 percent) of parents, with children aged two 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 indicated that they allow unlimited media viewing. 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 media 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.
“Parental concern about media content and awareness of the potential negative effects of excessive or inappropriate media content had the strongest associations with parents choosing an active media mediation strategy-either restrictive, instructive, or both," Barkin said.
Allowing a television in a child's bedroom had a strong association with allowing passive media use approaches. “This study tells us that pediatricians should educate parents about being more actively involved in how their children use the media, especially in a media-saturated society.”
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.
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About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Brenner Children’s Hospital. It is licensed to operate 1,187 acute care, rehabilitation, psychiatry and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report. Brenner Children’s was named one of the top children’s hospitals in the nation by Child magazine.