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The Kids Are Alright! Study Shows US Parents Are Not Worried About Kids' Digital Media Use

By Stacey Ross

Don't worry, be happy! Despite parental concern regarding the impact that digital-media can have on our children, findings from a recent Northwestern University study of more than 2,300 parents of children up to 8 years-old reveal that parents embrace more than discourage digital media.

I do admit that I have found that I am a bit more paranoid than the average mama bear about our kids' potential digital misuses in comparison to younger parents, who grew up surrounded by more technology. I have observed a correlation between the attitudes of parents in regards to permissiveness of our kids' use of digital media and how much we, as parents, have incorporated it into our own worlds.

Check out what parents across the U.S. think, compare what they say with your views, and then grab your smartphone at your earliest convenience and tweet me your thoughts -  LOL!

What the study shows:

  • Most parents in the U.S. are not concerned about their younger children's media use.
  • Almost 60% say they're not worried about their kids becoming addicted to digital devices.
  • 70% of parents say that smartphones and tablets, despite their conveniences (aka "digital babysitters") don't make parenting any easier.
  • 55% of parents are "not too" or "not at all" concerned about their children's media use, compared to 30% who are concerned.

Ellen Wartella, the director of Northwestern's Center on Media and Human Development and lead author of the report, suggests that the nationally representative study “reveals a generational shift in parental attitudes about technology's role in young children's lives.” The majority (78%) of parents say their children's media use is not a source of family conflict, and 59% say they are not worried about their children becoming addicted to phones, tablet computers, or gaming devices.

Parents are embracing technology too!

Today's parents (of young children) grew up with technology as a central part of their lives, so they think about it differently than earlier generations of parents,” said Wartella in a press release. “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.  That makes sense to me!

Regardless of parents' relaxed attitudes, there are many studies still underway, such as research determining the impact that heavy media and technology use can have on our youth.  These areas include, but are not limited to, social, emotional, cognitive, academic, creative and physical development. Some research even suggests that the Internet might be changing the way our brains function. I postulate that if the study were to have been based on parents of kids aged 10 – 18, we likely would see different results. What do you think?

Well, what are parents' concerns then?

  • The most consistent parental concern about digital media is the negative impact on children's physical activity.
  • Parents think more positively than negatively about the impact of media (TV, computers and mobile devices) on children's reading and math skills and their creativity, with the exception of video games.
  • Parents view video games more negatively than TV, computers or mobile devices.
  • Parents rated video games as more likely to have a negative effect on children's academic skills, attention spans, creativity, social skills, behavior and sleep patterns than any other medium.
  • Parents worry about their children’s social skills and possible “addiction” to mobile media.

Awareness invites finding a balance

The impact that the usage of heavy media and technology can have on kids' social, emotional and cognitive development is still an area that needs more research. Many are convinced that findings in  these areas will affect public policy and the way we parent in the future. Studies across continents have already demonstrated the need to institute intervention and public awareness programs to address these precise areas!

Until we have our own big findings, though, American parents are smart to enforce safety guidelines and time restrictions. I think if our kids are spending 8 - 10 hours playing video games, well, it might raise some concern, or if our girls are primping so they can pucker up for photos every other day, well, clearly that might pose a problem! Making sure that our kiddos balance their daily activities in such a way to take care of "mind, body and spirit" is the best thing a parent can do!

Can I have an "Amen?"

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

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