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The complexities of raising kids in a digital age: Study

This was a fun study to read, especially because it tells the stories of the tech and family lives of Gabriella Guzman and Sierra Ramirez (ages 8 and 7, respectively) in the Los Angeles area. Of the children author Lori Takeuchi of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center writes, “They were somewhat ordinary as far as their digital media use was concerned. None were budding moviemakers, prodigy programmers, or avid gamers. Their parents weren’t engineers or professors of education, or the type to buy them robotics kits. But all used computers, video game consoles, and/or handheld devices on a regular basis at home and for fun, which was a primary selection criterion for this study.”

The study, “Families Matter,” did this ethnographic work in addition to surveying “800 parents of children ages 3 through 10 nationwide.” Here’s are some key findings:

  • Parents like to participate in media with their kids, but mostly in the media the parents grew up with – watching TV (89%), reading books (79%), and playing board games (73%) – and parents’ view of digital media is evolving, not static.
  • The newer the media, the less parent-child co-participation is happening in them.
  • Parents view digital media as being for fun more than for learning, but more than a third of parents have learned something technical from their child!
  • 59% of parents believe that digital media prevent children from getting physical exercise (lack of exercise and online privacy are parents’ biggest concerns), 53% are concerned about their children’s online safety and privacy, and 40% believe media use infringes on face time, but …
  • Only 18% of parents feel their own children spend too much time with new media (the Cooney Center says the reason may be that their new media use is harder to see and track than, say, their TV viewing).
  • Still, “nearly two-thirds of parents restrict their kids’ media use on a case-by-case basis (“the multiplicity of new platforms and the rate at which they change may explain why so many parents don’t impose a firm set of rules,” the researchers say).
  • Family tech use is highly individual, both for each member and families as a whole – because of personal history, parents’ professional lives, and culture, so the Cooney Center asks a good question: “With so many influences operating at so many levels of the family ecology — not to mention the ever-evolving stream of technologies entering the home — is it possible to raise children today on anything but a case-by-case basis?”

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. We’re a highly techie family and kids are really learning early. 3 yo is familiar with basics, 7 yo fairly good with intuitive technology, and 12 year old has known nothing else. Was doing PPT presentations and computer research reports by 4th grade. We do interact via mobile (ipods and smart phones). It is fun to watch the generational progression. Parental interaction within the mediums helps with better teaching and monitoring; positive experience. Not always the case I’m sure. Thanks for posting the research. Very interesting.

    June 17, 2011
    • Anne #

      Thanks for your comment, Beth (I checked out your blog – couldn’t believe the 1953 hospital bill; how did we get here?). Love hearing about other families’ experiences with tech, so thanks again.

      June 17, 2011

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