Parents Say Their #1 Health Concern is Overuse of the Media, Even More Than Drinking or Smoking

American parents are troubled about how much their kids play and interact with media including everything from downloading music onto iPods, social networking on the Internet, playing video games to watching TV.

Common Sense Media
Monday, February 5, 2007

NEW YORK, NY– American parents are troubled about how much their kids play and interact with media including everything from downloading music onto iPods, social networking on the Internet, playing video games to watching TV. While parents say they are more concerned about their kids' overuse of media – more than drinking or smoking – they appear to be in the dark when it comes to how media impacts the health and well-being of their kids. These are the findings of a new poll released today by Common Sense Media.

The national poll of 1138 American parents revealed that more than half (57%) of parents say they are concerned about their kids overusing media. When asked, parents reported that media use topped their list of worries more than smoking, drinking, sexual behavior, being overweight or developing eating disorders.

"It's clear that parents have an uneasy relationship with how much time their kids spend with media," said James P. Steyer, Common Sense Media CEO and Founder. "Intuitively, parents have a sense that too much media isn't a good thing, but they can't quite put their finger on why. There's a real perception gap out there and a genuine sense of anxiety."

Studies show that kids spend as much as 45 hours a week with media. That's more time than they spend in direct contact with their parents or in school. Further, scientific research by leading universities and medical institutions shows that media use by kids and teens, indeed, contributes to negative health outcomes including the epidemic rise in obesity among children, early sexual activity, and smoking.

Two out of three parents (68%) say they think media influences the health and well-being of their kids, but very few parents, as low as 13%, were able connect the dots when it came to the influence that media has on their health of their children.

African American and Hispanic parents surveyed reported that they were less likely than the general population to say a connection existed between the media their kids consumed and their kids' health.

"Parents acknowledge that media is part of everyday lives of their kids," Steyer added. "Most significantly though, the poll shows that parents see the family as having the most influence in the lives of their kids. As parents, they take responsibility for making the right media choices for their kids. But, they don't think they should do it alone."

Overwhelming, 91% of parents reported that family played the most important role in their child's life when it came to health, and 96% of parents said that they are responsible for monitoring their children's media use. But, 68% say media producers also are responsible.

Television topped the list of specific media parents were concerned about their kids overusing (29%), followed by the Internet (24 %) and video games (18%). Parents of boys (71%) reported to be more aware of the impact of media than parents of girls (64%). Parents with older children (70%), aged 11 to 16, were more concerned than parents with younger children (66%), aged 5-10.

Almost all parents acknowledge that the media influences their kids to request products, but the type of products requested vary considerably by the age of the child. 89% of parents with children aged 5 to 7 reported that the media prompted their kids to request toys and dolls. While 71% of parents with teens, aged 14 to 16, say they think media persuaded their kids to ask for iPods and computers.

To help parents keep their kids healthy in today's rapidly changing media environment, Common Sense Media launched an online survival guide for parents, "Keeping Kids Healthy in a 24/7 Media World". The guide provides simple, easy-to-use information and tips.

Insight Research Group conducted an online survey between December 13-20, 2006. The sample included 1,138 parents who have 5-16 year olds that use media. The sample was recruited using random digit dialing to ensure that it represented the U.S. population. The sample was weighted to census figures on other key demographic variables. The margin of error at 95% confidence is +/- 2.9%

About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is the leading non partisan organization dedicated to improving the media lives of kids and families.

About Insight Research Group
Insight Research Group is an independent strategic research specializing in qualitative and quantitative research with particular concentrations in media, technology, and youth.