Study Finds More Parents Using Electronics as Babysitters
A small-scale University of Michigan study has cast new light on the relationship between parents, young children, and technology. The study, which examined 44 families with preschool-age children between 2010 and 2011, used sophisticated audio equipment to study the home environment including electronic media signals.
The study’s results found that 80% of the preschoolers’ media exposure came through television, with video games, tablets, cellphones, and other electronic products making up the other 20%. The study further went on to find that over half of the families had zero interaction with their children regarding the media their children were being exposed to. Furthermore, 58% of the children were exposed to adult orientated programming such as Sex and the City while unsupervised.
Sarah Dornoff, a co-author of the study and research fellow at the university’s Center for Human Growth and Development spoke about the study’s findings in relation to parents saying, “We’re not hearing what we call ‘active mediation,’ or parents mediating or processing the content and then emphasizing or challenging messages that the children are receiving.”
Dornoff added that if parents choose to occupy their children with technology, they should heavily curate and monitor what they’re exposed to.
“Parents should be aware of what they’re watching, and step in if they hear a message that doesn’t resonate with their family values — or if they feel there’s a message that’s positive,” said Dornoff.
Dr. Victor Fornari, who directs child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., stated the findings were indicative of the changing times.
“Technology has become child care,” said Fornari. “Parents are off doing the dishes or folding laundry while the kids are plugged into their technology, and the parents aren’t sitting with them and watching together.”
The research was presented at the recent Association for Psychological Science Conference in Chicago, though should be seen as preliminary until they’re published in a peer-reviewed journal.