WASHINGTON – Back in the old days,sending children to their rooms to ponder their sins alone was a strict punishment.
But,no more. A child's bedroom – well-equipped with a television,computer and game console – will make the punishment ineffective.
This “paradise of technology” is addressed in a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation,“Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds.” The study,released Wednesday,found 68 percent of children have a television in their bedrooms,49 percent have a video game console and 31 percent have a computer.
A survey of 2,000 young people across the country found the average child spends more than six hours a day using some sort of technology.
While it may not be surprising that teenagers watch a lot of television,the study found a new wave in technology use,which the foundation dubbed “media multi-tasking.”
Many children watch television,chat with friends online and talk on their cell phones all at the same time,which raises concerns among teachers and parents who want to get a child's attention and keep it.
These findings also raise questions about supervision and exposure to an endless stream of material,said Vicky Rideout,Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and project research director.
“Anything that takes up this much space in our young people's lives deserves our full attention,” she said.
Donald Roberts,a Stanford University professor of communication who spoke at panel discussion marking the report's release,said hours aren't the real issue.
“It's not just the time,it's the messages,” he said.
Michael Copps,Federal Communication Commission commissioner,said what he thinks is the central problem.
“We have such a sorry sense of media education,” he said. “We don't have parents having discussions with their kids about what they see.”
Also on the panel was Alain Tascan,vice president of Electronic Arts Montreal,which produces video games,including one based on the movie “The Godfather.” He spoke about the video game “Grand Theft Auto,” which is produced by Rockstar Games. Players of the wildly popular game steal cars,kill thugs and solicit and kill prostitutes. Tascan agreed with Copps.
“There is a lack of commitment of parents to monitor their kids. As a parent,I wouldn't want my kids to play this game. Under 18 years old,I don't think this game is appropriate,” he said. “But you have to respect creative freedom.”
The Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist who goes by the name Common said society can't wait for every parent to take time to discuss these issues with their kids. He said he makes an effort to put positive messages in his music.
“Some parents don't take the responsibility,” Common said. “So who will? Yeah,I will as an artist. Hopefully these brothers up here will.”
Foundation officials and other panelists said they recognize the need to re-evaluate the role of parents,teachers and government in monitoring what media children use and how.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton,D-N.Y.,said the issue has long been a concern of hers,and she agreed parents have to take the lead.
“We are losing control over parenting to media,” she said. “We have to harness the positive impact media can have. We need to try and find ways to re-empower parents.”
Roberts said wishing for the old days will do little. Instead,society should teach itself to sort through the messages to pull out those that reinforce positive values.
“If you think the answer is censorship,you're wrong,” he said. “The answer is media education,teaching kids and adults how to process this information.”