Lead author Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern University's Center on Media and Human Development, said the study challenges two key assumptions about media and parenting: first, that smartphones and tablets have become today's "go-to" parenting tools, and, second, the dominant pattern in most families is children driving the desire for screen time while parents pull on the reins.
"Today's parents grew up with technology as a central part of their lives, so they think about it differently than earlier generations of parents," Wartella said in a statement. "Instead of a battle with kids on one side and parents on the other, the use of media and technology has become a family affair."
The researchers identified three different types of media environments parents create, which they call media-centric, media- moderate and media-light. Children in media-centric families spend three hours more each day with screen media than those in media-light homes.
Seventy-eight percent of parents said their children's media use was not a source of family conflict; 59 percent said they were not worried about their children becoming addicted to new media; and 55 percent said they were not all that concerned about their children's media use -- compared to 30 percent who were concerned.
The study was released at a conference at the Pew Charitable Trusts Conference Center in Washington, D.C.
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