Most parents aren’t concerned about the amount of time their children spend in front of the TV, computer, iPad or other media devices, a new study suggests. Researchers at Northwestern University say that parents have experienced a “generational shift” where they have become heavy media users themselves, making them more accepting of their children’s’ behavior.
“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,” Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern’s Center on Media and Human Development and lead author of the report, said in a statement. “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 study surveyed more than 2,300 parents and children between the ages of 0 to 8. The results found that 78 percent of parents said their children’s media use was not a source of family conflict, 59 percent said they were not worried that their children will become addicted to screen time and 70 percent said smartphones and tablets make parenting easier.
Jordan Shapiro, a Forbes contributing writer, agrees.
“As my children have aged, walkers, bouncy seats and jolly jumpers have all been replaced by an iPad, a Nook HD+, a Chromebook, and a Windows 8 Laptop that’s used almost exclusively for Minecraft, Gamestar Mechanic, and Kodu,” he writes.
Parents said the major concern over new media was its ability to dissuade kids from physical activity. Video games in particular, drew parents' concern due to their possible negative effect on children’s socialization skills, behavior and sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote recommendations highlighting this concern. It suggests parents limit their children’s screen time. They say too much media use can lead to obesity, irregular sleep, behavioral problems, and poor academic performance, and can desensitize children to violence.
Northwestern researchers were surprised to discover that new media hasn’t become today’s “go-to” parenting tool -- a commonly held belief. Rather, parents said they use books, toys and activities to reward or distract children.
"It was completely surprising to me," Wartella told the Los Angeles Times. "It's a generational shift. What we are seeing is a generation of parents who recognize that what kind of content you are exposing your kids to matters more than how much."