WASHINGTON — Parents are more in control of the media their kids watch than ever before but remain concerned about inappropriate content, according to a study released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
Seemingly contradictory in places, the study provides support for both sides in the debate over whether existing filtering and blocking controls are sufficient.
About 60% of 1,008 parents surveyed said they worry that children are exposed to too much sex, violence and adult language in music, movies, television and the Internet. Two-thirds said they would support more federal curbs on such content.
But two-thirds also said they “closely” monitor their kids’ media use through a range of existing tools and controls as well as common sense. Moreover, a vast majority of parents concerned about inappropriate content view it as someone else’s problem: Only 20% said they thought their own children were being exposed to such content.
“Despite their overall concern, most parents don’t think their own children are exposed to a lot of inappropriate content in the media they use,” the researchers said. “And the proportion who say they are ‘very’ concerned about their children’s exposure to sex, violence and adult language in the media, while still high, has gone down consistently over the past nine years.”
“Whether parents really are doing a good job of monitoring their children’s media use is not something we can know for sure, and there are mixed signals in the survey,” the study continued. “On the one hand, parents’ use of the TV ratings and V-chip have stagnated, and most parents still don’t understand the TV ratings system. On the other hand, use of music advisories has gone up, and more parents say they find all of these tools ‘very’ useful.”
Television prompts the most concern among parents, 66% of whom said they would support more governmental restrictions on racy or violent content during early evening hours. That percentage is unchanged from 2004, when the KFF released a similar report.
The conclusion of the new study would seem to lean toward those who have argued against more regulation of content:
“In sum, most parents feel they are doing the best they can to keep a check on the role media are playing in their children’s lives. They think the content of those media and the tools they have to monitor them are far from perfect, but on balance they feel like they’re doing a pretty good job of protecting their own children — at least when they’re at home.”
But pediatrician Dr. Victor Strasburger, who attended the release of the study, said parents were “fooling themselves” if they really think they’re controlling what their kids see. Children, he said, claim their parents are not in control.
The Parents Television Council, which has sharply criticized the industry for airing inappropriate content, said the study is proof that industry and regulators need to work together to improve the situation.
Meanwhile, TV Watch — a media-backed, anti-regulatory org that includes some prominent conservative groups — released results Tuesday from its survey on parental views of whether existing controls have failed and the government should therefore step in and regulate more.
According to the TV Watch survey, 35% of parents answered yes; 5% said they had no opinion; and 60% said no — existing controls were sufficient and the government should stay out.