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Mediating media

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics explores parental monitoring of children’s media use. It examines its effects on physical, social, and academic outcomes, and the links between monitoring children’s media use and a wide range of these outcomes.

A total of 1,323 children aged 8-11 from ten schools in Iowa and Minnesota were recruited to participate. The authors collected data at the beginning and end of one school year from home and school surveys, and from a primary caregiver and teacher for each child. Measures included health (height, weight, BMI), as well as demographics, parental monitoring of media, total screen time, media violence exposure, school performance, and well-being.

The study revealed that increased parental monitoring was correlated with a reduction in children’s total screen time, which in turn resulted in more sleep. More monitoring was also correlated with improved school performance, increased pro-social behaviour, and lower aggressive behaviour.

Exposure to media violence predicted lower pro-social behaviour and higher aggressive behaviour. Increased parental monitoring was correlated with less exposure to media violence, which in turn was correlated with increased pro-social behaviour and decreased aggressive behaviour. The researchers controlled for parental education, marital status, child gender, and minority status.

Although the American Association of Pediatrics makes a number of general recommendations on total screen time, the authors suggest it may be useful for parents to know that there are four types of parental monitoring: co-viewing with the child; restricting amount of time; restricting the types of content; and actively discussing the meaning and effects of media content with children (active mediation).

Source: Protective Effects of Parental Monitoring of Children’s Media Use: A Prospective Study (2014), JAMA Pediatrics, 168(5).

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