Kids Lack Self Control in Media Usage Habits

Like many studies, this one seems to have been a waste of time (seeing that it only confirms what most people already know):

Teens and pre-teens have access to practically any movies, DVDs, music or video games despite industry ratings and warning labels, according to a University of South Dakota study.

Years ago, when I was much younger (and we had no iPods and no internet) we had easy access to all the stuff we were not supposed to have access to. I’ve a feeling that we could go back to my parents’ and grandparents’ day and find the same to be true for the prohibited materials for their generations also.

I will admit that “easy” is easier than ever, with the advent of the digital age. The bottom line is that self-control, which may be defined as keeping the rules when adults aren’t there to ensure strict conformity, is not something for which children are known. Increasingly, adults are not known for it either.

“We found that parents couldn’t rely much on (industry) safeguards,” he said. “The challenge is how to keep children and teenagers away from inappropriate information.”

The USD findings become even more disturbing in light of a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, Spurlin said. The Kaiser study found the average young American spends practically every waking minute, except for time in school, using or interacting with electronic media.

Though my wife and I are by no means perfect (just ask either of us) we have made a conscious and concerted effort to limit the amount of interaction with electronic media which our children have in a given time period. We do not do this because such interaction is necessarily bad, in and of itself, but because it replaces other (more healthy) interactions with human beings and old fashioned media such as books.

Spurlin wants to continue more research if funding becomes available. She hopes the USD study creates more awareness around the nation. She noted a new trend with the introduction of “naughty” video games.

“What might be interesting, (to see if) the ratings board really tried to do anything more in terms of self-regulating things,” she said. “The industry says it’s regulating themselves, but it doesn’t appear to be working.”

In the end, parents need to do their job, Garry said.

Here’s the thing, most of the folks who are creating games, movies, music, etc are not terribly interested in preventing people from playing, watching or hearing their products. In fact, they are strongly motivated to the exact opposite. Like good capitalists the world round, they wish to make money on their investments–and they do so by selling the same product to hundreds–thousands–millions of customers. While some marketers might give lip service to the idea that younger consumers should wait until they are older for certain products, most simply do not care–or even explicitly market their material to those who should arguably not be using it.

Yeah, I’m an old fuddy duddy (or whatever the corresponding term is today). I admit–I’m a parent who believes that I am doing right by my children by keeping them children until they are physically, emotionally and spiritually mature enough to be adults.

Does this mean I’m in favor of new laws and regulations regarding children and media? Not really. You can see where things are now and understand how well that is working. Such laws, unless supported by a majority of poeple within a culture, tend to be stepped upon with regularity and impunity. The last thing we need are more laws to ignore.

I am in favor of “parents … do[ing] their job.” Good choices begin at home.

2 thoughts on “Kids Lack Self Control in Media Usage Habits

  1. Our child-rearing media of choice: bucket of crayons and markers, lots of scratch paper, books, dinosaur jigsaw puzzle, regular doses of Sesame Street, and occasional DVDs from the library. The challenge for parents is to engage with their kids and not give in too often to the urge to let the video screen babysit. Our child does sit captivated before the screen, still and silent… but still and silent isn’t a good way to grow up.

    1. CAH,

      Papers, puzzles and picturebooks–they go a long way, don’t they?

      We’ve made the decision that our children will watch nothing without at least one of the parents seeing it at the same time. This decision serves two purposes: it necessarily limits their viewing time (because we don’t have all the time in the world to watch with them) and it ensures that we have all the data we need to handle fears or concerns or confusion which might arise from what they view.

      We use this approach whether they’ve never seen a certain film/clip before, or watched it a dozen times.

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