No parental control

The average American child logs more than eight hours of media exposure — listening to music, watching DVDs and videos, playing computer video games and surfing the Internet — per day, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. That’s led to a call for a study of the effects of media on children. Neomoralist Hillary Clinton proposes a better sex ‘n violence rating system for parents, notes Opinion Journal.

But that will help only if parents use the tools they are given. The most startling revelation in the Kaiser report is that for a majority of kids there are no rules in the household about media use. Where there are rules, often they aren’t enforced or they apply only to how many hours children watch TV, not to what they watch.

This is strange. For example, the author of the Kaiser study, Vicky Rideout, notes that in an earlier survey, two-thirds of parents reported that they are very concerned about children’s exposure to sexual and violent media content and that half said they believe such exposure affects their children’s behavior a lot.

So what explains the absence of rules and parental supervision? Perhaps it’s the huge effort involved. Busy parents have to muster the energy to learn how to use V-chips, ratings systems and computer filtering.

Or maybe parents just don’t have the guts to say “no” to to their kids.

About Joanne


  1. Parents are the primary educators of the child so if this much media is exposed to a child per day, and they are sleeping eight hours and going to and from and attending school for eight hours – then it would seem there is little time left for parental input; unless one turns off that cell phone to share some quality time with junior on the commute to school, or sits with the kids as they watch American Idol. Ah, but that might suggest that your dream for them is being a Laker girl, or … who knows what. Are there Laker guys who dance? Only “in” court.

    Nothing on commercial tv is worth watching and that includes the news as we were reminded this week with the passing of Dan Rather. A child would be better off being set in front of an open window and asked to write down everything they heard or observed for a conversation later with the M&D, than to turn on television.

    If you need some perspective on this, rent or borrow from a library the classic movie NETWORK with William Holden and a great cast.

  2. Left in Texas says:

    Civilization is ending! Oh no!

  3. Mr. Davis says:

    Bingo, Joanne. Parents are abrogating their responsibility for rearing their children to the state and the media. The key is setting the right example. The parental units in our family watch little to no television. As a result the children do not protest when told no. It is when parents implement do as I say, not as I do regimens that children rebel. If parents are not willing to control their own viewing habit and engage their children as proto-adults, they should not be surprised when the children emulate the childish behaviour in which they see their adult leaders engaging.

  4. BadaBing says:

    Proto-adults. I like that. The media bears responsibility. Kids are targeted because they represent sizeable market revenue. One of the biggest media copouts is, “If you don’t want them to watch it, turn it off.” I’m not trying to minimize parental responsibility, but parents cannot supervise 24/7, and some parents are just idiots. The media in this country is a huge stumbling block to the innocence (and other things) of children, and it would be better that a millstone were hung around their corporate necks and they were cast into the sea, than that one of these little ones should stumble.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Why not just randomly execute a TV producer every friday?

  6. It could be the only thing worth watching on network TV.

  7. Bluemount says:

    I think parents have been successfully ridiculed out of any kind of authoritive voice by blame. If parents **and teachers** are the primary educators of a child why do neither feel empowered. In fact I believe the only people who do feel empowered are bullies who lawyer up or campaign for funding.

    We need to evaluate a system that has increased the diagnosis of ADHD by 700% in the 90’s. The diagnosis of mental illness in small children is still increasing by broadening the definition of autism, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and oppositional defiance disorder. These are common terms requiring medications that are attributed to the death of more children than school shootings have produced. The programs created to treat these children are usually no more than aides who work poorly with parents. Parents are frequently shocked by the poor outcomes that are so non-standard for their family history.

    Media is the mirror of society; stories of love, chilvary and intimacy are disappearing. I think this reflect public resource being spent on health and human services instead of families. Parents can hardly afford to quit working in a downsizing economy, day care is a cold alternative. Since day care is moving into it’s second generation, some parents have not really had parents themselves.

    Until the methods empower the individual teacher and parent with resource to do good work; more aide-driven programs will be the rule and it won’t matter if they are public or private. Please note the power to sue, blame, ridicule, ostracize, remove from the mainstream, or collect negative incident data is not a resource.

  8. “The media in this country is a huge stumbling block to the innocence (and other things) of children, and it would be better that a millstone were hung around their corporate necks and they were cast into the sea, than that one of these little ones should stumble.”

    Innocence is overrated, and is really just another word for “ignorance”. And those parents are applying rules to the amount of TV more than the content because that’s the correct priority – the world isn’t going to end if a child sometimes sees “inappropriate” content of whatever kind, but he’s a lot better off if he spends most of his time doing something more useful (a very wide-ranging category). And they claim that they’re “very concerned about children’s exposure to sexual and violent media content” because any idiot knows better than to say out loud that they’re not “very concerned”.

  9. Many parents today may be “ignorant” meaning that they are “lacking in education or knowledge” or are “unaware or uninformed” but it does not mean that they are stupid and do not care. I have always been attentive to the amount and types of programming my child is allowed to watch and most often limit her viewing to the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, or other similar programming . But parents have many factors working against them these days. Two of the big factors are the content on television and working to make ends meet, which often leaves children home unattended and unrestricted from watching these programs.

    When my daughter was younger, I placed her in childcare while I worked and when at home I was very selective about what she was allowed to watch on TV. When my daughter was six I discovered that even the evening news was not safe when she asked me one evening (while I was cooking dinner and she was doing homework at the kitchen table) what “oral sex” was. She had heard it on the TV that was tuned to the news in the living room.

    I kept my daughter in childcare until she was 11. (Most childcare providers do not take children over 10 but my provider took her for an extra year because I had no other options) I am a single parent (not by choice) and have to work to support my family, so at twelve-years-old my daughter had to stay home alone while I worked. Now I have very little control over what she watches because I am not always there to enforce the rules. I live in a rural area so without cable there is no television. I have considered not having television but I feel the need to have some link to what is going on in the world and radio in my area is limited and not much better then TV. It is also very scary and lonely for my daughter to be home alone so she uses the TV for comfort and noise. I have the “guts to say ‘no'” to my child and I block channels I feel are inappropriate so they can not be viewed when I am not home, but I keep discovering programs that I have problems with.(unfortunately after my daughter has or is watching them) I am not an advocate for censorship but these programs target young audiences and take no responsibility for their actions.

    Nickelodeon is a children’s programming network but any parent who has sat down to watch “Its All That” would likely be as appalled as I was at the sexual overtones and inappropriate content aimed at young children. A common theme I have discovered in other programs (“Rug Rats”, “Mary Kate & Ashley” Movies, “It’s So Raven”, “Sister Sister”, “Saved By the Bell”, etc.) is preteens running around unsupervised, breaking rules, and disrespecting/disregarding authority because they are “smarter” than the adults are. No matter how many rules they break it is all right because it turns out ok in the end. Programs such as “Buffy”, “Angel”, and “Charmed” target the young teen/pre-teen audience but provide mature material inappropriate for their age.

    Parents do have the predominant responsibility for raising their children but we do not live in a vacuum with no outside influences. I am willing to accept my part of the responsibility for setting and applying rules for the type and amount of television I allow my child to watch. Shouldn’t the industry accept responsibility for the content of programming they directly target to young people, or is a parent’s only option to reject technology and raise their children without access to television, radio, and the internet?

  10. Ken wrote: (parents) claim that they’re “very concerned about children’s exposure to sexual and violent media content” because any idiot knows better than to say out loud that they’re not “very concerned”.

    Indeed. The major problem is that the parents are themselves caught in the web of desire and peer pressure spun by the media. Adults are living their lives not by a firm scale of true values, but by striving to satisfy the dictates of the imaginary electronic “everybody”
    projected by the media.

    Ask parents to evaluate if they are being permissive/involved enough – or ask adults to evaluate their success in life. Most will think at least as much about magazine articles and TV shows as they do about their own kids and their own values. The media, rather than church, community, or personal values – sets the “norm” to which they refer in deciding their own position. People slot themselves into stereotypes and social positions described by media and advertising, defining themselves by the products they consume rather than by their beliefs or actions. The Cosmo girl becomes the Redbook mom.

    America is a very wealthy country. I know many people who have large families – but make it on one salary because that is what their values dictate. So many kids are home alone because their parents are heavily invested in their own cycles of get-spend-display. To fret about how much TV kids watch in such materialistic, externalized households is like trying to remove a splinter in the middle of a tornado.

    The media have grown from a “sideline” industry that entertained and informed us, to become the dominant dictator of social norms. This is directly related to the dissolution of community, family, and religious structures – all of which were the bearers of communal values in other generations. The solution is to base one’s life – at least one’s own family life – on solid values rather than jump and dance to what the electronic “everyone” says.

  11. Here’s an idea: get rid of TV, altogether. Of course, I don’t mean throw away your television, just don’t get cable or hook up an antenna. TV on DVD is one of the greatest inventions ever. There are plenty of shows to choose from and you’ll be able to control exactly what comes into your home. On top of that, you won’t have an endless barrage of commercials to put up with. The only downside to this tactic is that you’ll be giving up your news, but that’s what the internet(which is another problem, entirely) is for.

  12. Reginleif says:

    Innocence is overrated, and is really just another word for “ignorance”.

    Hear, hear, Ken.

    Michele: …preteens running around unsupervised, breaking rules, and disrespecting / disregarding authority because they are “smarter” than the adults are.

    Uh, this is nothing new. Not that I’m in favor of smart-alecky and/or unsupervised kids, but this complaint from certain parents, especially religious ones (and I’m not accusing anyone here of this personally), often means, “I don’t want my kid to ever question authority. I want to bring up a perfectly obedient follower of rules.”

    Neither extreme is healthy.

  13. Reginleif says:

    Here’s an idea: get rid of TV, altogether.

    Good idea. Don’t let this happen to you and your family!

  14. I think this statistic might be a little high. A kid would have to watch tv from the second they got home from school until bedtime. Then, they would also have to watch tv at least eight hours on Saturday and Sunday. And that’s just the average kid. Since 50% of the kids studied are above the average, a LOT of kids spending more than 10 hours a day in front of the tube! Is this really possible? Frankly, I don’t know a single kid who life comes close to these estimates. Even when I teenager staying home without a parent, I didn’t watch that much television.

  15. Frankly, I don’t know a single kid who life comes close to these estimates.

    The survey was referring to all media, not just television. Factor in music(which is compatible with most other activities) and the findings are much more sensible.

  16. John from OK says:

    Please watch some of these children’s shows. If you don’t like “smart-alecky and/or unsupervised kids”, you might be surprised as to what passes for positive behavior on TV these days. I was.

    When a single mother told me she would no longer let her 8 year old watch Nickelodian, I had the same “religious nut” opinion. Until I watched some of shows and realized that the reason her 8 year old girl was acting like an 18 year old bitch because every show aimed at girls was teaching the appropriateness of self-obsession.

    Switching topics, there will always be a debate on what is and is not appropriate. In the late seventies, some nanny-state group pushed the idea that the most violent show on TV was Laverne and Shirley! That being said, the level of sex on shows where you expect to find just comedy, drama, or football, has skyrocketed to where it has become distasteful, kind of like a comedian who isn’t funny so he has to say F%*$ every five seconds. The level of sex on shows where you might expect it (MTV,HBO) has become downright obscene. There is no need for this. If I want porn I know where to find the real stuff.

    Finally, I wish they would stop lumping sex and violence together. It obscures the problem. TV has not become more violent, it has become more sexual.