Northwestern University published this report last about parents’ attitudes towards media use for their children. Exciting stuff! Well, maybe not so. However, it’s worth a read because the study finds shows some interesting insights about changing attitudes towards media.
tl dr: The study finds that today’s parents have much more positive attitudes about allowing their kids to consume media than in past years. A majority of parents are not weary of letting their children consume most types of media, as they’re not worried that their kids will become addicted and have to spend their lives as circus folks ( I may be assuming the latter).
With the exception of video games, parents think more positively than negatively about the impact of media (including TV, computers and mobile devices) on children’s reading and math skills, and their creativity.
Math skills are a stretch, but this fact shows an interesting trend: today’s parents, who grew up with computers, TV and other forms of media are less weary of these mediums because of it. What didn’t get them won’t get their kids, right? Meh. That said, the study still finds that traditional forms of family activities still reign predominant in most house holds. Also, interestingly the number of households the article deem ” Media centric” and Media Moderate” is considerably higher than those deemed “Media-light” (Media-Light sounds like a milk substitute). What this could mean is that, while parents may say traditional forms of family bonding are at the heart of their family activities, it could very well be that media plays a far bigger role than they would like admit.
However, what is most relevant about this study to sociology and video games is that parents, despite this positive trend towards media, are still relatively negative about video game use for this kids.
Parents view video games more negatively than TV, computers or mobile devices. Parents rated video games as more likely to have a negative effect on children’s academic skills, attention span, creativity, social skills, behavior and sleep than any other medium.
Peachy. The study doesn’t say if this is a improvement upon previous studies or not, but we’ll just focus on this negativity. The concerns come mostly from parents worrying that video games will effect their children’s physical activity, though that seemingly isn’t a concern for the other forms of media (Surfing the net sounds physical!). These are valid concerns, granted, but should we be more weary of video games than other forms of media on our kids physical activity? Probably not, but it’s an easy target. Likewise, concerns of effects on academic skills, creativity, and attention span are questionable in comparison to other media. With such an array of video games out there, and especially with the amount of video games being created to push creativity and education in young children, it’s hard for me to believe that video games are more destructive to a children’s attention span, intelligence, and creativity than television or the computer.
If video games are to become more widely accepted as tools of socialization, parents needs to be aware of their values and the options they offer. With research and proper insight, parents can choose video games that promote health values in children. Not all children games are angry birds (I loathe Angry birds) or run of the mill cartoon tie ins, so games challenge kids to think out side of the box and inspire them to be more creative. Being a product of growing up with video games myself, I honestly believe games made me more creative and analytical. Games like Zelda taught me to examine my surroundings and think beyond what I can see, while games like Mario Paint inspired me to be more creative than I could be with mere paper and pen. …And Duck Hunt taught me hunt duck, but that’s besides the point. The point is, video games aren’t the menace they’re often made out to be. Like TV and other forms of media, what you get out of a video game comes down to your selection.
Lastly, the study was of 2300 parents. That’s a decent sample size, but it’s not huge. As a result, we have to question whether this represents parents as whole. Likewise, the study did not say how their results were gathered or how they chose their sample size; all good questions to ask if we’re choosing this study to represent a population.