Parents spend more time talking with children about the mechanics of using their mobile devices than about what their kids watch and download on them, according to a new study.
The findings came from a small, recent study of 75 children and their families in which the children wore recording devices at home. The devices recorded talking, conversations, or other sounds nearby, as well as audible screen media use.
The findings reveal some concerning trends in how families and children communicate about media today, says Sarah Domoff, who was then a postdoctoral fellow at University of Michigan’s Center for Human Growth and Development and now an assistant professor at Central Michigan University. Specifically, the researchers observed minimal conversation about the content of programming that children were watching.
Additionally, they learned that other family members appear to play an important role when content is discussed. Children—not parents—initiated most conversations about content, and older siblings played a much bigger role than parents in content mediation for younger siblings. Also, the study finds that children as young as toddlers were exposed to multiple media sources at one time, or media multitasking.
Other findings include:
- Negotiations and conflict are common among parents and children.
- Parallel family media use is common, meaning different family members use their own devices at the same time.
“One of the most challenging aspects of parenting today is being aware of what children are exposed to online, particularly content delivered via mobile devices,” Domoff says. “Thus, it is critical that parents utilize privacy settings and restrictions to protect children from certain content. Ideally, this would occur before the child received their own mobile device.”
Domoff recommends developing a family media plan. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a tool that helps families set different goals and media use rules based on individual needs, she says.
It’s also troubling that some apps that children download include advertising or request in-app purchases, she says. Parents can identify these apps by using Common Sense Media’s app review.
Parents can also recruit older children to help younger siblings make good content choices.
The study aimed to identify themes of parental mediation and family communication around mobile media devices. There’s a dearth of scientific data in this area compared to television and video games, but studies show that parental mediation leads to better outcomes for children.
The new study appears in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.
Source: University of Michigan