US Parents Confident to Monitor Kids' Viewing

22 June 2007

WASHINGTON DC: Parents in the US say they are getting control of their children's exposure to sex and violence in the media, but they remain concerned about inappropriate content more broadly, according to a new national survey from advocacy group, the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The report reveals 65% of parents "closely" monitor their children's media use, while 18% say they "should do more".

This may help explain why the proportion of parents since 1998 who say they are "very" concerned that their children are exposed to inappropriate content has dropped, from 67% to 51% for sexual content, from 62% to 46% for violence, and from 59% to 41% for adult language.

The survey says parents are particularly confident in monitoring their children's online activities. Nearly three out of four parents (73%) say they know "a lot" about what their kids are doing online (among all parents with children aged nine or older who use the internet at home).

Most of these parents say they check their children's instant messaging "buddy lists" (87%), review their children's profiles on social networking sites (82%), and look to see what websites they have visited (76%).

At the same time, parents continue to express significant concerns about children's exposure to inappropriate media content in general. Two-thirds (65%) of parents say they are "very" concerned that children are exposed to too much inappropriate content in the media and a similar proportion (66%) favor government regulations to limit TV content during early evening hours.

The study's findings will add grist to the mill of other groups seeking increased regulation of television. They suffered a setback earlier this month when media watchdog, the Federal Communications Commission, found itself at the wrong end of a legal ruling on TV profanity [WARC News: 06-Jun-07].

Comments Vicky Rideout, vp and director of Kaiser's Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health: "While parents are still concerned about a lot of what they see in the media, most are surprisingly confident that they've got a handle on what their own kids are seeing and doing - even when it comes to the internet."

However, Victor Strasburger, a professor of paediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine strikes a cautionary note and contends that parents "are fooling themselves" if they believe they have that much control. He adds: "Parents think they are controlling the media - kids say they are not."

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff