In May the LSE held an event bringing together researchers, policy-makers, parenting organisations and children?s media professionals to discuss whether parents need a new approach to ?screen time.? Here are some of the top findings.
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This very moment, reading this blog, you are learning from the internet (we hope!). Via your phone, tablet or computer, you are participating in a community and gaining access to information you value.
And yet when it comes to our children and ?screen time? many parents, even those who have grown up with digital media and are digitally-savvy, become filled with fear. You may be concerned about being called a ?lazy? parent, or you might have worries about your child?s health or cyberbullying, grooming. Some of you will also have experienced real downsides from internet use yourselves ? from feeling a sense of competition, being left out or obsessively checking in to hurtful trolls or worse.
As part of our research project Parenting for a Digital Future we interviewed over 65 families, including those who share their experience of parenting through blogging, in order to find out how parents view the opportunities and risks of the digital age. We found:
1. Many parents are investing in technology, sometimes heavily and including in low-income families, to help their children learn, to connect with friends and family, and to manage the practicalities of family life.
2. When parents talk about what they think is ?good? digital parenting they immediately thought of policing and monitoring ? installing filters and making sure time limits weren?t exceeded and that enough time was spent outdoors. Only very rarely parents talk about sharing their own digital experiences ? what they had gained, enjoyed or found difficult ? with their children.
3. However, the evidence shows that technical blocks and restrictions, on their own, neither keep kids safe nor help them access the opportunities of the digital age. It is precisely those open, curious conversations with parents that can help support both.
This month we released a policy brief that calls for a new generation of ?screen time? advice for a new generation of parents. The time for a new conversation about ?screen time? is way past due. Here?s what we found:
4. Parents need more balanced advice. When we mapped current sources of guidance for parents we found that overwhelmingly risk adverse ?eSafety? messages dominated the address to parents, by a significant margin. There are few balanced sources that discuss both risks and opportunities (although there are some! For example check out Common Sense Media, Parent Zone and other resources listed on our blog). These need greater visibility.
5. Parents need more diverse advice. Most parents make decisions about how to manage their children?s media use based on their family?s particular needs, interests and resources, and their own and their children?s digital skills. One size fits all advice actually fits no one.
6. Talking about screen ?time? is misleading. Instead of obsessing about time it is much more useful to think about the context of screen use (where, how and why children are using screens), the content (what they are watching, playing, reading) and connections (who they are relating to).
Ultimately, the more parents can recognize that their children can learn, connect and create online, the more they can support them to do so safely. If you benefit from digital media, couldn?t your child?
Authors: Alicia Blum-Ross & Sonia Livingstone
Home page image: Photo credit: Brocreative via Shutterstock
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