What do American Parents Think About the Media?

What do American Parents Think About the Media?

It is no secret that young people spend the greater part of their time with the communication media, whether it be with a mobile phone, a video game or television. But what do their parents think about this? What is their opinion, what are the orientations?

Common Sense , a center specialized in studies about education and communication media, has developed a study to better understand what is the real attention of American parents toward the media and what worries they have about their children. The results make a faithful picture of the current American society.

Parents are the primary users of the communication media and technology in the family

The first relevant fact is that parents spend more than 9 hours in front of the screen during work and free time. A truly high figure. They are certainly not an example for their children from this point of view. The true paradox, nevertheless, is that these same parents, while being the first to use many of the communication media and technology, later reveal themselves to be conscious of the possible risks and dangers of such an elevated exposure.

Among their main worries in fact is the danger of developing a dependence on media and technology by an excessive use that could cause psychological disorders in the children themselves, such as for example loss of sleep. The internet and social media especially raise alarm: 50% of parents believe that social media can cause damage to the psycho-physical balance of their children , in particular for loss of concentration (35%), in the development of communicative and social capacities (34%), in behavior (24%), in school performance (22%), in emotional equilibrium (20%) and in personal relationships (15%).

Differences between white, African-American, and Hispanic parents

One of the main merits of this investigation is that it proves differences of behaviour of the three principle American ethnic groups. It shows greater disposition toward control on the part of Hispanic parents, compared to African-Americans and non-Hispanic whites.

Hispanic parents tend to be more attentive than whites or people of color in managing the use of communication media with their children. For example, 60% of them claim to be very attentive in preventing their children from spending too much time on the internet, compared to 37% and 33% in the other groups. A notable difference.

Regarding social media, two-thirds of Hispanic parents claim to be always very careful in the use that their children make of them . Finally, two-thirds as well of Hispanic parents and parents of color claim to be very attentive to what their children see and hear in the media, compared with 51% of white parents.


Respect for the privacy of children is not a very important factor within the educational plan of one’s own children or at least it is not a priority

Almost two-thirds of parents (67%) affirm, in fact, that is more important to control the use of the media on the part of one’s children than to respect their privacy. In other words, prevention and control come first.

Technology and education

Finally, what do parents think about the use of technology in the scholastic preparation of their children? Here the consensus is universal. Almost all (94%) affirm that technology provides a valid support for schoolwork and education . Parents have a positive opinion about the role of technology in the education of their children and for the development and training of important educational capacities.

Methodology of the study

The study was conducted in July of 2016 through questionnaires in a complex panel of more than 1,700 parents of children between 8 and 18 years old, who live in the United States. The questionnaires were offered both in English and in Spanish, using a statistical representative sampling of the U.S. population.

The study considered all possible types of communication media, with a special attention to television, paying special attention to new media, social media, internet and video games.


The study reveals a complex framework of what the strategies of mediation, control, and management are concerning the use of communication media at home and away from home. The findings show that parents, especially Hispanic parents, are very active in observing their children when they are using the telephone or playing with a video game console, to avoid excessive exposure or bad habits. But at the same time, parents do not demonize technology, believing that it is useful for the education and academic progress of their children. In conclusion, the study provides interesting perspectives from the viewpoint of education of the communication media, which could be taken up again as well to develop the same study in a European or Asian context.

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