An investigation of parental mediation of children's use of television and computer-based entertainment

Cheryl Lee Jones Phillips

Abstract

For decades, researchers have tried to determine the benefits and drawbacks of children's relationship with the media. Regardless of historical period, parents, educators and social critics have always expressed concern when children are exposed to "stories from outside." The emergence of each new medium has continued this trend. The current study investigates parental mediation of children's use of television, video games and computer-online media. A review of previous research has determined: (1) that there is a long-standing concern over the effects of media on children; (2) while parental mediation of children's television use has been studied, research in regard to parental mediation of new media is nearly non-existent at this time; (3) knowledge gained from the investigation of parental mediation of children's television use seems applicable to the newer media contexts and worthwhile of study. In light of these findings, this study examines the following research questions: (1) What are the relative frequencies of the restrictive, instructional, and co-viewing mediation styles being used in subjects' families with respect to (a) television, (b) video games, and (c) computer/online media? (2) Are mediation styles used consistently across media forms? (3) How are the variables listed related to mediation practices used with respect to television, video games and computer/online media? (A) Age/grade of child; (B) Gender of child; (C) Child's access to the medium (individual/collective); (D) Time spent using the medium; (4) How are the variables of family size and the parenting structure of the family related to the mediation practices used with respect to television, video games, and computer/online media? Data was collected from 304 high school students and a small group of parents. A questionnaire assessed students' media use and the presence of parental mediation in the home. Three styles of parental mediation were measured: restrictive, instructive, and co-viewing. Parents were interviewed individually about their parental mediation practices. Results reveal the majority of parents are mediating their children's media use but they are not using the same mediation style across all media. The findings show parents mediate children's television and computer-online use more than they mediate video game playing. In addition, the investigation reveals younger children and children in larger families experience more mediation than older children and children in smaller families. Significant relationships between mediation and a child's access to media, parenting structure, and time spent using media were also detected. The parent interviews reinforced the students' responses.