06 SES 04, Media Education: Parental strategies
Since the middle of the 1970s children have been granted more rights to be consulted in decisions affecting their own lives, they have a stronger say, and parental and teacher authority have consequently both been diminished (Thuen, 2008, p.265). As personal computers, TV and mobile devices now are also abundant in homes, regulating the use of these media is vital to family life.
Parents report that they often fail to regulate adolescents’ use of videogaming in various contexts (Hoover & Clark, 2008). They worry about effects ranging from altered sleep habits, to obesity, anxiety and social deviance, as well as problems with vision and coordination. Children using ICT in educational as well as leisure settings are said to be developing “digital competencies”. Using such competencies wisely and responsibly, however, is a different and more difficult matter.
In the project, we will focus on how parents and children regulate their use of ICT and technological devices and design their strategies between prohibition and freedom.
The research question concerns children’s and parents’ opinions and interpretations of the benefits and drawbacks of the use of ICT, and how they interpret restrictions and regulations. How do they handle excessive use or abuse of such opportunities and specific issues like gaming, pornography, net dating and social media? What are the concerns and worries regarding sleeping, leisure, obesity or physical activity? Even if the percentage of those diagnosed as addicted to gaming and/or the Internet is relatively small, the energy and emotions invested by children and parents in negotiating the boundaries and balances between permission and prohibition is vast. Parents find few public norms concerning the issue, and lack common fora to discuss and coordinate consistent norms and rules.
Media use in the family has been researched by, among many others, Hoover and Clark (2008). They claim that families provide distinctions between what (not) to watch, listen, game or read, and that parents do “police” the borders between permission and prohibition, monitoring the various contexts of consumption. However, parents’ ideologies are often inconsistent with what is actually practiced. The desire to oversee and keep parental control is not as successful as they like to think (p.118). In general parents still adhere to “pedagogy rather than prohibition”. Critcher (2008) differs noticeably from Hoover and Clark in concluding that most parents lack the knowledge, capacity or will to censor or monitor their children’s use of media, and continues: “This abdication of parental control is even more likely in the case of computing” (p.102). He further observes that parents taking a more controlling role in general is not likely, “...we know so little about parent-child decisions about media use that it seems unwarranted to assume that parents can or should adopt this role” (p.102). Researchers in media education have worked diligently to develop theories, methods and ideologies that would support children becoming critical media users and consumers (Flaten, Torp & Aarseth, 2010, Karlsen, 2013). However, the dilemmas and paradoxes faced in preventing children from gaining access to potentially harmful content, from misusing technologies, bullying other children, or harming their own health while using media, while “...simultaneously encouraging them to make the most of the educational and cultural potential of these new media” (Buckingham, 2000), are manifold (Wang, 2012). Taken together, they demand a better understanding of how control and participation influence the competencies of parents, teachers and children to handle the complexities. “EU Kids online” brings together European research in this field, and a recent book presents alternate ways of regulating the use of Internet at both the level of policy and private parenting (O’Neill, Staksrud & McLaren, 2013).
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