Parents Less Worried by Media Exposure
Some Experts Warn of False Sense of Security About Sex, Violence Content
June 19, 2007 -- Parents appear less concerned about their children’s
exposure to sex and violence in the media than they once were.
That’s according to a survey released Tuesday that has tracked parental
attitudes since 1998.
But two-thirds of parents still say they’re concerned about the level of
inappropriate content on airwaves, the Internet, and in movies. Just as many
say it’s time for the government to step in and do more to regulate sex and
violence during prime-time viewing hours.
The survey of roughly 1,000 parents of children aged 2-17 found that 40% to
50% were very concerned about the amount of violence, sex, or adult language
their kids see in the media. The figures were each down by at least 16% from a
decade ago, concluded the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which issued the
“Most of them feel like they’re managing to cobble together the tools they
need to do a pretty good job,” said Vicki Rideout, a Kaiser vice president and
the study’s main author.
But what parents are actually using to cobble together a sense of control
over their kids’ media exposure is less clear. Despite a federal law requiring
V-chip lockout devices in all televisions produced since 2000, only one-sixth
of parents who own the devices use them, the study showed. Less than six in 10
were aware their TVs contained the chips.
At the same time, parents’ use of ratings systems for movies, video games,
and television has either remained roughly the same or dropped since 1998. Only
music warning advisories are more popular than they once were, used by 11% more
parents than a decade ago.
Parents Fooling Themselves?
Victor Strasburger, MD, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics
Council on Communications and Media, warned Thursday that the study masks the
fact that children’s exposure to violence and other unhealthy media messages is
often out of adults’ control.
“Parents are fooling themselves,” Strasburger said during a panel discussion
reviewing the report’s implications. “I think parents would like to think
they’re controlling the media [their kids see], but they’re not.”
Parents are desensitized by repeated depictions of violence and sex in the
media, just as kids are, Strasburger argued. That could explain why parents
believe they are doing a better job protecting their kids.
Strasburger was one of several experts who called for universal ratings for
music, Internet content, video games, movies, and TV. “The ratings systems are
a mess,” he argued.
There was some evidence showing parents are confused, at least by the
current TV rating system that codes potentially objectionable content with
Only one-third of parents correctly identified an “S” rating as warning of
sexual content, while only half knew that a “V” rating stands for violence, the
But Jim Dyke, a former Republican National Committee communications director
who now runs an antiregulation group called TV Watch, said voluntary controls
give parents the choice of whether they want to monitor their children’s
“Just because people are not using the available technologies doesn’t mean
the system’s a failure,” Dyke said.
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