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Parents say they are getting control of their children’s exposure to sex and violence in the media, and they remain concerned about inappropriate content in the media in general, according to a new national survey of parents by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Some 65% of parents say they “closely” monitor their children’s media use, while just 18% say they “should do more.”

Those numbers might explain why since 1998 the proportion of parents who say they are “very” concerned that their own children are exposed to inappropriate content – while still high – has dropped, according to Kaiser:

  • Down from 67% to 51% for sexual content
  • Down from 62% to 46% for violence
  • Down from 59% to 41% for adult language


Parents are particularly confident in monitoring their children’s online activities: Nearly three out of four parents (73%) say they know “a lot” about what their kids are doing online (among all parents with children 9 or older who use the internet at home):

  • 87% of parents whose children engage in these activities say they check their children’s instant messaging (IM) “buddy lists”
  • 82% review their children’s profiles on social networking site
  • 76% look to see what websites their kids have visited after going online.


Still, parents express significant concerns about children’s exposure to inappropriate media content in general:

  • Two-thirds (65%) of parents say they are “very” concerned that children in this country are exposed to too much inappropriate content in the media
  • Similar proportions (66%) favor government regulations to limit TV content during early evening hours.


African American and Hispanic parents are more likely than Whites to say they are “very concerned” about their children’s exposure to sex, violence and adult language in the media:

  • 67% for African Americans and 57% for Hispanics vs. 45% for Whites for sexual content
  • 64% and 55% vs. 39% for violence
  • 60% and 51% vs. 34% for coarse language

Additional findings from “Parents, Children & Media: A Kaiser Family Foundation Survey“:

  • Media Content: About a quarter of parents (23%) say inappropriate media content is one of their “top” concerns as a parent, while another 51% say it’s a “big” concern, but not one of the top concerns.
  • Advertising:
    • One in three parents (34%) say they are “very” concerned that their children are exposed to too many ads in the TV programming they watch, while 35% say they’re “somewhat” concerned, 18% say they are “not too” concerned, 11% are “not at all” concerned.
    • Among parents who are concerned about advertising, ads for toys top the list (18%), followed by videogames (17%), clothing (17%), alcohol/beer (11%) and food (10%).


  • Educational Media:
    • A majority of parents (59%) say it’s true that children who watch educational TV have better verbal skills, and 41% say baby videos have a positive effect on early childhood development (17% say that’s not true, while 35% say they’re not sure).
    • A majority of parents (56%) of younger children (ages 2-6) say baby videos positively affect development.
    • The majority of parents with children ages 2-13 are at least somewhat satisfied with the number and quality of educational shows available for their children (16% are “very” satisfied, 50% “somewhat” satisfied), compared to 30% who say they are “not too” (21%) or “not at all” (9%) satisfied.
  • Internet Monitoring:
    • Among parents with children age 9 or older who use the internet at home, four in 10 (41%) say they use parental controls to block access to certain websites.
    • Among those whose children use email, four in 10 (39%) say they read their child’s email or look in their inbox.
  • Media Ratings:
    • Parents’ use of the TV and video game ratings has stayed virtually the same since 1998 at about 50%, while use of music advisories has gone up (from 41% to 52%), and use of movie ratings has declined (from 86% to 77%).
    • Among parents who have used any of the media ratings, the proportion who say they find them “very” useful has increased over the years, from 43% to 58% for video game ratings, 45% to 56% for music advisories, and 42% to 49% for the TV ratings.
    • Many parents still don’t understand what the TV ratings mean:
      • Among parents who have children ages 2-6, only three in 10 can name any of the ratings used for children’s shows, including TV-G, or G, which means “general audience.”
      • Only 11% know that the rating FV indicates violence (it stands for “fantasy violence”), while 9% think it means “family viewing.”
      • Only 11% know that the rating EI means educational or informational programming.
      • Among parents with any child ages 2-18, 61% know that TV-14 means the show may be inappropriate for children under age 14.
      • Just over half (54%) know that TV-MA means for mature audiences.
  • V-Chip:
    • One in six parents (16%) say they have ever used the V-Chip to block specific TV content – not a statistically significant change from 15% in 2004 (but up from 7% in 2001).
    • Eight in 10 parents (82%) say they have purchased a new TV since January 2000, when the requirement that all TVs over 13″ be equipped with a V-Chip went into effect. Among those parents, more than half (57%) aren’t aware that they have a V-Chip.
    • Among parents who have a V-Chip and are aware of it, 46% say they have used it.
    • Among those who have used the V-Chip, 71% say they found it “very” useful.


About the study: The  quantitative findings presented are based on a national random digit dial telephone survey of 1,008 parents of children ages 2-17, along with a series of six focus groups held with parents across the country. The survey was designed and analyzed by staff at the Kaiser Family Foundation, in collaboration with Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI); fieldwork was conducted by PSRAI. The survey was conducted from October 2??”27, 2006. Trend data are from surveys conducted by the Foundation in August 2004 and in April 1998. Focus groups were held in Irvine, California; Dallas, Texas; and Chicago, Illinois.

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