NZ Herald today is an article about a survey released in Australia today which tells a story of the 21st century nuclear family as one whose children are media-rich; who have multiple communications devices in the home; who value the internet and are striking a comfortable balance in their children’s use of media.
The report is described as an in-depth study of children’s use of electronic media and the way parents mediate that use. It includes an up-to-date review of the academic research literature on the long-term influence of media on children and families.
The research considered a range of children’s leisure activities and investigated how the internet, free-to-air and subscription television, radio, mobile phones and games fit into the lives of Australian young people and families.
The report includes analysis of:
- detailed information from over 1000 children (aged eight to 17 years) about the time they spend on leisure activities, including electronic media
- an inventory of media equipment in 750 homes and
- a questionnaire to 750 parents/guardians examining the attitudes and behaviours that families adopt to mediate the use of electronic media by children.
There is no information about how representative the samples are of Australian society – for instance, to what extent rural and indigenous communities are involved?
- Children (8-18) spend an hour and 15 minutes online every day, and more than 42 per cent of all children say they have posted their own content online on social networking sites such as FaceBook and MySpace.
- The tv set plays as important a role as ever in the average home, and its influence is increasing.
- In 1995, just 8 per cent of children had a television in their bedroom. This year that figure jumped to one in five, and half of those have their own internet connection. In Britain, 70 per cent children have a TV in their bedroom. In the US, the figure is 75 per cent.
Besides the fascinating profile that is created of today’s young people and their exposure to media and digital communications ( eg family homes with 3 or more TVs, computers (98%), broadband internet (76%), 3 or more mobile phones etc) the report explores parents’ views on their children’s media use and strategies they employ to manage this use.
There’s also a great review of the literature looking at the impact and implications of various types of media, including TV, film, video, games, and mobile phones etc. which will be of interest to anyone pursuing research in this area.
A part of the report that particularly interested me 9in the wake of a discussion I got drawn into at a school recently) comes towards the end, and explores the consumer socialisation of children through exposure to these various forms of media, and the influences of media on children’s health. The latter section explores the relationship between media and obesity and physical (in)activity, nutrition, substance use, eating disorders, sexual behaviour and suicide.
The conclusion of this final section is divided. The report concludes that there is a wealth of literature supporting the view that media content and use may influence the way young people perceive their environment, their bodies, their relationships, and various risk taking behaviours. But it also concludes that media has the potential to enhance young people’s health and behaviour, having the potential to promote physical activity through intensive mass media campaigns and pro-recovery eating disorder websites for instance. The report also identifies a number of areas in which more robust evidence is still needed.
Definitely worth a read for those contemplating research in this area, or who are simply interested in reading an evidence-based perspective on what our kids are doing on the computer (and other forms of media).