Less Media = Happier Kids

Results of comprehensive new poll from Kaiser Family Foundation show that parental involvement can improve how media affects kids’ lives

Common Sense Media
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Today's release of the results of "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18-Year-Olds" from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that, thanks to mobile technology and social networking, kids' media use is exploding. Not only are they spending more than 7.5 hours a day with media, but also, through multitasking, they are actually cramming 10 hours of media into every day. But the report also shows that parental involvement in kids' media lives can and does have an immediate impact in improving the role media and technology plays in kids' lives.

"As the Kaiser report clearly shows, today's kids are true media multitaskers, from listening to music while doing homework online, to texting while checking Facebook," said Linda Burch, Chief Education and Strategy Officer, Common Sense Media. "The study also takes one of the most in-depth looks yet at how that multitasking is affecting their lives, and finds that kids who spend the most time with media report lower grades or depression and unhappiness. But it doesn't have to be that way. Parents can have an immediate impact by setting clear rules and guidelines for media use. For young kids, that means restricting access and setting time limits. For older kids and teens, it's about involvement and engagement. It is all about balance, but kids won't do it on their own – parents have to lead the way."

Though this report goes a long way to track the huge increases in media consumption over the last 10 years, there are still so many unknowns about how our kids are using media – how much is potentially positive and educational, and how much is truly negative.  As a result, digital literacy and citizenship have become crucial to making sure parents are armed with the right information to ensure kids can maximize the positive potential of media and technology.

"This Kaiser Family Foundation research is invaluable, and extremely well done," said Jim Steyer, CEO and Founder, Common Sense Media. "It is yet another wake-up call for all of us to be more involved in how we raise safe, responsible, smart kids. But no matter how simple it is for parents to get involved, they can't do it alone. As media becomes increasingly mobile, it becomes harder and harder for parents to monitor. So it's even more important that they mentor. There is a great opportunity here for our leaders to establish digital literacy and digital citizenship programs so that parents – and teachers – can engage kids about what they're doing, and teach kids how to make smart choices with media."

Here some tips for parents from Common Sense Media on how to manage media in your family:

  • Start good habits early: Establish boundaries. Start when your kids are young by restricting access to media: Turn the phone off during homework. IM, too. And keep an eye on the clock. The secret to healthy media use is to establish time limits and stick to them.
  • For older kids, use media together, and talk about what you see, hear, and read: Whenever you can, watch, play, listen, and surf with your kids. Talk about the content, and stay engaged with what your kids are doing online – and on the go. Share your values, and help kids connect what they learn in the media to events and other activities in which they're involved in order to broaden their understanding of the world.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum: Try to help kids do one thing at a time. For older kids, make sure social networking and chatting happen after homework is over – or at timed intervals.
  • Be a role model: When kids are around, set an example by using media the way you want them to use it. Keep mobile devices away from the dinner table, turn the TV off when it's not actively being watched, and use a DVR to record shows that may be inappropriate for your kids(even the news) and watch them at a later time when kids aren't around.
  • Seek balance: If our kids are going to thrive with digital media, we must balance the negative with the positive, privacy with protection. As our children grow, they need more independence and privacy. But parents have to be sure that kids know how to be safe and responsible before letting them loose.

To read our full article on the Kaiser report – and for parent tips on multitasking – visit www.commonsensemedia.org.

To set up an interview with our experts, please use the contact information below.

About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to www.commonsensemedia.org.

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