Parenting the littlest media users: A study shows what concerns new parents
Are parents concerned about their wee ones becoming addicted to new media? Meh, not really. Nor are they saying media use is a source of conflict, a new study says.
Increasingly, digital media are just part of the rhythm of everyday US family life, a significant new study of parents of young children indicates. The study, “Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology,” conducted by Northwestern University’s Center on Media & Human Development, surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 2,300 parents of children 8 and under about how media – both “traditional” and digital – inform and fit into their everyday lives and parenting. The authors found that “78% report that their children’s media use is not a source of family conflict, and 59% said they aren’t concerned their kids will become addicted to new media,” according to US News & World Report.Skip to next paragraph
Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org and co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.
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What’s most on parents’ minds (Source: the “Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology” report).
What does concern those parents is the impact of lots of screen time on kids’ health – “the negative impact screen time has on kids’ physical activity levels. More than 60% said video games result in less movement by their children, with similar proportions saying the same about TV, computers and mobile devices,” US News reports. The authors themselves wrote that parents “are more likely to find a positive than negative effect of media and technology on many of their children’s academic skills.”
Family media use very individual
But it’s so individual from family to family, both the report and author, professor and tech parenting expert Lynn Schofield Clark indicate. Dr. Clark, who attended the release event in Washington, had an important take-away: “We don’t all experience media in the same way.” For some families in some neighborhoods, for example, staying inside playing video games might be safer than playing outside.
In her post about the report in PsychologyToday.com, she points to what I think of as an ideal approach to parenting where media’s concerned: “an ethic of respectful connectedness,” Clark calls it. “To the extent that media can help parents and family members to stay connected and to remain respectful of who they are and where they’ve come from, media can be seen as useful and helpful in relation to family goals.”
Less is better? It depends
So far in the digital age, our society tends to believe less media is better, but “not all parents can engage in the kind of concerted cultivation activities hat tend to make media use lighter,” Clark writes. Families “may face economic, health, language, or job- or transportation-related challenges…. ‘Helicopter parenting’ and concerted cultivation are rooted in the idea that young people can achieve and improve their lives through participation in existing societal structures, whether that’s school, sports or the arts. But while families facing greater economic challenges hope that these things will help, they don’t trust that they will [emphases hers]. They look to their families, neighborhoods, friends and communities to help their children develop the resilience they will need to face the challenges of racism, prejudice, and structural inequalities.”