Given Inappropriate Content in Digital Media Era, Parents Want More Control

April 22, 2010

WASHINGTON DC (MetroCatholic) -  A United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) national survey of parents about media’s impact on their children finds parents are deeply concerned about inappropriate content  in media and want help from the media industry and government to be able to control it. The Parents’ Hopes & Concerns About the Impact of Media on their Children study was commissioned in response to a notice of inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
           
The major findings of the survey highlight parents’ deep concern about inappropriate content in media and a desire to be able to better control it. Over 80 percent say they want to be able to control access to media content that depicts violence, sex, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse and profane language. Of special concern are media portrayals of illegal drug use and alcohol abuse, which currently are not considered by many ratings and parental control systems.
           
The survey also shows that parents are more concerned about inappropriate content on television and Internet than they are about video games, cell phones or music.
           
On the issue of being engaged in monitoring their children’s media usage, over 90 percent of parents say their family has rules about what media their children can use and watch, and more than half say they use parental controls for television, Internet and video games.
           
Two-thirds say there are three factors that would increase their useof parental controls: better understanding of parental controls; ability to block television ads they think contain inappropriate content; and greater availability of media products with parental controls already set.
           
Three-fourths of respondents say makers of media products should do more to help protect children from inappropriate media content, while 58 percent say government should also do more.
           
Regarding advertisement content, 61 percent say they are concerned about ads with inappropriate content and three-fourths say they would use parental controls more if they could block such content. The findings also suggest that more parents are using V-Chip — a technology that allows television receivers to block programs based on their ratings category—  than was previously thought and identify a number of ways to increase V-Chip usage.
           
Upon analysis of these results, USCCB officials recommend expansion of media content ratings to include not only violent, sexual and language content, but also illegal drug use, alcohol abuse and smoking. They also recommend not overlooking the impact of television content by placing greater emphasis on newer media such as the Internet and social networking, since parents name both television and Internet as the two media platforms about which they are most concerned. USCCB also recommends that policymakers and broadcasters develop resources to empower parents and other television viewers to block unwanted television ads and support initiatives that would promote and enhance parents’ use of parental controls.
           
USCCB equally supports the continued use of the V-Chip and of initiatives to make it more widespread and parent-friendly, as well as a comprehensive approach that involves both parental responsibility and greater government and industry involvement.
           
“Our nation’s transition to digital television offers an excellent opportunity to provide children with additional protection,” said Bishop Gabino Zavala, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications.  “The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is grateful to the FCC for its efforts to empower parents and protect children in an evolving digital landscape.  We encourage the Commission to act on parents’ concerns revealed in this USCCB study.”
           
The survey was conducted February 16–20 by the Issues and Answers firm based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The results are based on a national random digit dial telephone survey of 500 parents of children ages 2–14. The margin of error from sampling is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
           
Full results can be viewed on line at http://www.usccb.org/comm/Parents-Hopes-Concerns-Impact-Media-on-Children.pdf.

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