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More PsychNotes: Parenting

September 6, 2017       

Effects of Managing Childrens' Media Viewing
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering. Benjamin Spock
As children are exposed to more and more media, many parents are feeling more hopeless about protecting their children from inappropriate content. However, an analysis of 57 research studies shows that attempts to manage childrens' media exposure does have some impact on childrens' well-being.

Types of managing media viewing

1) Passive co-viewing. When parents view media without any limits or discussion children are more likely to be influenced by the media as parents are giving an unspoken approval of the message. Thus, co-viewing is more likely to lead to increased aggression and fear and poorer academic performance.

2) Limit time. By limiting the time children are exposed to media, outcomes such as academic performance or physical well-being are improved. Such an outcome is commonsensical because the time is being used for physical activity or homework rather than media usage.

3) Limit content. When childrens' viewing of inappropriate content is limited, sexual activity is reduced or occurs later with a reduction in unwanted pregnancies and multiple partners.

4) Discussion. When parents view media with the child and have active discussions about the content children tend to have reduced aggression, substance use, and sexual activity. Discussion allows parents to present their values rather than allowing children to be passively influenced by media.

Collier, K.M., Coyne, S.M., Rasmussen, E.E., Hawkins, A.J., Padilla-Walker, L.M., Erickson, S.E. and Memmott-Elison, M.K. (2016). Does Parental Mediation of Media Influence Child Outcomes? A Meta-Analysis on Media Time, Aggression, Substance Use, and Sexual Behavior. Developmental Psychology, 52, 798–812. DOI:10.1037/dev0000108

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