Why Aren't Parents Worried About Media Addiction In Kids

STORY BY Candace Bryan

Published: June 13, 2013

When I was a kid, my parents were pretty strict, especially when it came to matters of technology. I was only allowed to watch a limited amount of television, couldn't watch movies that were deemed "inappropriate," and I could basically never use the Internet. I hated it, and frequently referred to their practices as "basically Amish," but as an adult, I'm glad that they protected me from, not only the violent and sexual images of certain films, but from having wasted my youth in front of a screen (even though all my other 9 year old friends wasted hours on the long outdated "AOL instant-messenger."

My parents were worried about the presumably negative effects overexposure to technology would have on my developing brain, and these are worries that will certainly plague me when I have kids. However, many young parents don't actually have these fears. In fact, in a recent survey of parent with kids eight years old or younger found that 78% of them don't find media use to be a source of family conflict while 59% don't worry about kids becoming addicted to media devices.

This worries me. Maybe these numbers indicate that the majority of parents operate like mine did, and have strict control over the amount of time kids spend with tech gadgets. But as someone who frequently babysits, and who constantly sees children around town with their nose glued to an iPad, I fear this may not be the case. I worry that young parents, people my age who grew up with the Internet and cellphones, have forgotten how unnatural it is for themselves, and especially their young ones, to spend a great deal of their day with games, shows, and the Internet.

The results of the survey also found families categorized in three ways: 39% being media-centric, 45% being media-moderate, and only 16% being media-light. What’s disturbing about this is that the children of media-centric  families spend three more hours a day in front of screens and devices than kids from media-light families. That’s a lot of tech time.

It's not just about activity levels, though many parents are right to worry about their media-centric children getting enough exercise. It also has to do with brain activity. A childhood is a time to learn about the world around you, and the best way to do this is with active learning, and real participation in activities. Video and computer games and television watching are very passive activities that might not stimulate the growing brain of a child enough.

My guess is also that because of the propagation of media through the Internet, young parents are also all too aware of the environment their kids are in. Parents are naturally concerned about kids' safety, but when you read multiple stories a day about horrible things happening to children around the world, the security of having your kid safely playing games in the living room might be appealing. Especially for busy parents who might not have time to actively engage with their off spring on a regular basis.

So it's tough, and I don't want to seem judgmental of parents who let their kids play iPhone games all day. However, as devices become more and more convenient, it would behoove parents, and really all of us, to keep a sharp awareness of how often they're being used, and to remember the potentially harmful effects of spending your youth (and frankly, your adulthood) addicted to screens.

Other Stories by Candace Bryan
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