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Parents Are Not Worried About Their Children’s Media Screen Time

Update Date: Jun 04, 2013 11:15 AM EDT

As technology continues to grow with newer gadgets and apps every day, more and more people are glued to at least one media screen. Media screens, which include televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets, provide access to an infinite source of information, which can both help and hurt people of all ages. For example, young children, who sit in front of a screen more frequently than ever before, could be exposed to or be in charge of cyber bullying. Despite this increased time that children spend in front of a screen, a new survey revealed that the majority of parents are not worried.

In a nationwide survey, headed by Ellen Wartella, a researcher from Northwestern University, researchers found that around eight in 10 parents reported that time spent with media was not a source of conflict within the family. Out of the 2,326 parent participants, 55 percent of them said that they were "not too" or "not at all" worried about how much time their children spend in front of a media screen. Only 30 percent of the parents expressed their concerns over this level of exposure. Although most parents had a more positive view on media, some parents did address certain concerns.

The main issues that parents had with media screen exposure was that it prevented children from being more physically active and that certain screens, such as video games, contributed to learning bad skills and behaviors. The majority of parents still reported that they used books, activities and television as a means of rewarding or diverting their children's attention. On top of these overall finds, the researchers pinpointed three specific patterns.

They found that for media-centric families, which were families where adults were in front of some media screen for an average of 11 hours a day and children as well for an average of 4.5 hours a day, were more likely to leave the television on. This group, which made up of 39 percent of the sample, also tended to put televisions in their children's rooms. Media-moderate families with a screen time average of five hours a day for adults and three hours a day for children made up of 45 percent of the sample. The last group, media-light families that had a screen time average of two and one and a half ours for adults and children respectively, comprised of only 16 percent of the group.

The researchers did not study whether or not media exposure and the length of the exposure affected children's behaviors. They did conclude that media exposure was somewhat controlled by the parents. The researchers also stated that there might be a generational shift happening where parents are becoming used to having media screens around the household and during family activities.

"What's compelling is we certainly have a generation of parents now who grew up with technology, and it's very much a part of everyday life for these families," Wartella said according to U.S News, HealthDay. "There are different styles of use, and parenting styles set the agenda and help influence children's styles."

The study's findings will be presented at the Pew Charitable Trusts Conference Center in Washington, D.C. 

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