Tomorrow, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is presenting a report at the E 3 Expo in Los Angeles that may surprise media designers and cause policymakers to step back from their current concerns about kids' digital multitasking addiction, cyber-bullying, violent videogames, and mobile disruptions in school. While much of the public discussion about digital media is concentrated on how little influence parents have in shaping their children's consumption habits, and how designers are creating a panoply of empty calories that may be poisoning healthy development, our research finds a more nuanced view. While there is certainly cause for concern, especially for the quality of content now produced for children in their primary years, our research finds plenty of room for new hope and confidence. Most parents actually have the media explosion under control!
Written by our Director of Research Lori Takeuchi, Families Matter: Designing Media for a Digital Age finds, unsurprisingly, that digital media have become a major force in the rhythm of modern family life. It documents how most families are in a "transition period," one in which parents recognize the importance of technology in their children's learning and future success, but don't always grant their kids access to the newer forms of media transforming their own adult lives.
The report profiles how parents' personal experiences with media are one of the key factors shaping the approaches they take in guiding their children's media consumption. A national survey of 800 parents of young children (ages 3-10) found that nearly two-thirds limit media consumption on a case-by-case basis. Of parents surveyed, 57% recognize that digital media presents ways for children to converse and connect with friends and family, but two-thirds of parents restrict their children from chatting online and visiting social networking sites.
The study also revealed that only half of parents are playing with their kids on newer platforms such as video game consoles: They report spending more time with their children engaged in traditional activities, including watching television, reading books and playing board games. More than half of parents are concerned about the effect of media usage on their children's health, but fewer than 1 in 5 parents think their kids spend too much time with digital media. Other findings include:
The report also features in-depth case studies, probing how parent attitudes toward technology, along with family values, routines and structures, are shaping young children's experiences using digital media.
Families Matter offers recommendations to bolster the development of media content that can support learning and encourage adult-child interactions. Recommendations include:
Our study concludes that when it comes to digital media's influence on children, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Kids obviously need guidance to understand the critical skills that are required in a ubiquitous media environment. It is critical that industry, researchers and policymakers understand that when it comes to promoting learning and positive social habits, families still matter most.