Modern Parents Not Concerned About Their Child’s TV Time

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

According to a new study, modern parents are unlikely to worry about how much screen time their child is receiving.

Northwestern University researchers said they have found that the majority of American parents today are unconcerned about their child’s media use. They also have found that parents have adopted different parenting styles related to media.

The team surveyed more than 2,300 parents of children up to 8-years-old. Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern´s Center on Media and Human Development and lead author of the report, said the study “reveals a generational shift in parental attitudes about technology´s role in young children´s lives.”

Researchers challenged two key assumptions about media and parenting with their study. First, they challenged the idea that smartphones and tablets have become today’s “go-to” parenting tools. Secondly, the team looked into the idea that the dominant pattern in most families is children driving the desire for screen time while parents pull on the reins.

“Today´s parents grew up with technology as a central part of their lives, so they think about it differently than earlier generations of parents,” says Wartella, the Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor in Communication in Northwestern´s School of Communication. “Instead of a battle with kids on one side and parents on the other, the use of media and technology has become a family affair.”

The team identified three different types of media environments parents create: “media-centric,” “media- moderate” and “media-light.” Children growing up in the media-centric families spend three hours or more a day with a television, computer, video game, smartphone or tablet. According to the study, 39 percent of families fall into this category.

Eight in ten of the parents in the media-centric families say they are “very” or “somewhat” likely to use TV to keep their child occupied when they need to get something done around the home. Forty-eight percent of these families leave the TV on at home most of the time, while nearly half have a TV in their child’s bedroom.

The team said 45 percent of the families in the study fall into the media-moderate category, which is where children in the group spend an average of just under three hours a day using screen media. Families in this group are more likely to enjoy doing things outside.

According to the study, 16 percent of families fall into the media-light group, which consists of children spending just 90 minutes with screen media each day. The parents in this group average less than two hours a day with media, compared to those in the media-moderate group, which average five hours a day.

Fifty-nine percent of parents in the study said they are not worried about their children becoming addicted to new media, while 55 percent say they are “not too” or “not at all” concerned about their children’s media use. The majority of the parents, 70 percent, said smartphones and tablets do not make parenting any easier.