WASHINGTON – Parents say they are in control of their children's exposure to indecency in the media,according to a national survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But the national study found that a large portion of parents remain concerned about inappropriate media content.
Two-thirds of parents say they keep an eye on their children's media use. The percentage of parents concerned about their children's exposure to sex,violence and adult language has dropped since Kaiser's first national survey in 1998.
Most parents think inappropriate media will affect other people's children. Only 20 percent thought their kids were seeing a lot of indecent material.
Victor Strasburger,communications chair for the American Academy of Pediatrics,said parents were victims of the “third-person effect.” This causes parents to believe the media affects “everyone but themselves.” He said the effect happens to everyone.
“Parents are fooling themselves,” Strasburger said. “Of course if you ask parents,‘Are you doing a good job in regulating the media that your kid sees?' they're going to say yes.”
Devices like the V-chip aid parents in monitoring what their child can watch on television. The chip can block programs based on a rating system.
The foundation survey showed most parents don't understand the ratings system. For example,only 11 percent knew what the rating “FV,” for “fantasy violence,” meant,and 9 percent thought it meant “family viewing.”
The 2004 survey showed that most parents did not use or understand the ratings system then,either.
The new survey found that 82 percent of parents own a V-chip equipped TV,but only 43 knew it. And less than half of that group use it.
The survey did find that those who have tried the V-chip say it is “very useful.”
Tim Winter,who spent 15 years with NBC,said the media reacted negatively to the introduction of the device.
“When the V-chip was first proposed,the industry barfed,” he said. “They were decrying the V-chip as censorship.”
Moderator and award-winning journalist Jackie Judd said the majority of parents supported some form of government regulation of programming.
Organizations like TV Watch promote parental controls and individual choices instead of government regulations for television content.
“If you put some of this in context,there are 110 million television households,” Jim Dyke,the group's executive director,said. “Thirty-five million of them have children. Not all programming is intended for children. Parents ought to be aware of that.”
The survey found 73 percent of parents are confident in monitoring what their kids are doing on the Internet. By checking e-mails,instant messages and buddy lists,they say they are aware of the environment their kids enter when they go online. More than half of parents view the Internet as a positive influence.
Mike Angus,executive vice president of Fox Interactive Media,which includes the popular social networking site MySpace,directs the privacy and safety activities for his company.
Angus said the company provides links on every MySpace page to report things like pornography and sexual harassment. Younger MySpace users automatically have private profiles.
“This is an ongoing process as the media changes,” Angus said. “As our kids' interaction with that media changes,we have to change the tools that we're providing the parents.”
MySpace is releasing a free software tool,”Zephyr,” that will allow parents to “know whether or not their children are using MySpace,and if so,what their account name is and what age they're representing themselves to be,” Angus said.
The Progress and Freedom Foundation held a book launch on Wednesday of “Parental Controls and Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools and Methods.” Author and foundation senior fellow Adam Thierer said he welcomes the software into the online world.
“It basically supplements a large and growing market of online safety and monitoring tools that parents can tap to better monitor their children's online activities or behavior,” Thierer said.
Thierer also said it helps that the software is free,while most software cost up to $50.
The survey of 1,008 parents of children ages 2 to 17 has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.