I couldn’t figure out what my son was talking about. “Mom! They have a TV cover just like ours. Why is theirs on their wall?”
I glanced around my friend’s house and noticed what my son was pointing to. My friend looked at me with a quizzical, “Has your son lost his mind?” look.
“Uh… We don’t let our kids watch a lot of television. In fact, our TV is on a little chest in the corner. I threw a quilt over it for some sort of decorative substance to it. Oldest Son – (then, 4 years old) doesn’t realize it is actually a quilt his grandmother made.”
I felt embarrassed and like my friend probably thought I was one of ‘those parents.’
You know? Those overprotective parents who censor everything their children may watch or listen to.
That was over 20 years ago. Hubs and I were conservative about exposure to electronics in our family. We did have a television, but it wasn’t hooked up to anything. We only used it for videos.
As our family grew and we became busier and busier, our motivation to monitor what our children watched got a little sloppier. A friend realized we did not have satellite TV, and thinking it was only because of finances, purchased a year’s worth of the local satellite TV for us.
We relaxed. We enjoyed. We dropped our guard.
Today, we have only 1 teen in the house. At one time, we had 3 teens and 1 nine-year-old. Media was a big deal. We had to get creative about “relaxing” versus “protecting.”
Parenting is hard. Families are all different. Our values are different.
It is a constant and difficult job these days!
Regardless of what you decide as parents, there are a few statistics to become aware of when deciding whether or not to restrict your teen’s television exposure.
I prepared a continuing education course for therapists, and those who work with teens. While putting together “The Tightrope of Teen Therapy,” I found some pretty sobering research about how media, computers, and computer games were influencing the average teenager in the United States.
14 Startling Statistics you may want to consider while making your decision regarding media monitoring with your teens:
- Dr. Pat Love’s reports the average family’s lifestyle depicted on television is that of a family who would have to earn $300,000 annually (Love, 2015). In a society where scarcity and comparison is ever prevalent, this factor plays on your teen’s thoughts of satisfaction with themselves and their environment.
- The folks at The Parent Project report 50% of teens have a TV in their bedroom (Melendez, 2012)
- The average teen spends 4 hours a day watching TV and 2 more hours on the computer. (Some studies report 6 hours of TV watching a day and 32 minutes of computer time.) Either way, the teen is having a lot of education being taught to them about relationships and the world through the television and computer.
- Teens who watch television are more likely to suffer from obesity and depression. (For further research please refer to Aaron M. White’s book “What Are They Thinking,” 2013 as well asFrances E. Jensen’s book, “The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults,” 2015)
- 71% of parents stop supervising computer usage after their teen is 14 years old.
- 62% of teens say parents don’t know about their computer use
- 72% of all internet-related missing children were 15 years or older (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2015)
- There are now 4.2 million pornographic websites. For more information regarding how porn affects the teen brain refer to the excellent website Porn Kills Love.
- Since 2005, there has been a 590% increase of pornographic images (from 2 to 14 million) on the internet.
- 5% of children are addicted to video games
- Teens spend 9 to 13 hours a week playing computer or video games.
- In his excellent blog, “Video Games and Teens’ Behavior“, John Cramer reports Dartmouth Research revealed a significant correlation between violent games and high risk behavior. (Cramer, 2014)
- In a study at the University of Pittsburgh, it was found teen boys who played high violence games as compared to teen boys playing low violence games experienced a greater increase in blood pressure, more negative emotions, were less cooperative and had a more positive attitude towards drug use. (Aaron M. White, 2013)
- Aaron White’s research also reports the average working parent spends 19 minutes a day looking after their children. This includes car pool, dinner, etc.
Revisiting the House Rules for Teens and Media
These statistics may or may not be alarming to you as a parent, or as someone who works with the youth of today. I found the research to be sobering.
Parenting and supporting a family is hard work. Period. Making time for our teens is sometimes next to impossible with everyone’s busy schedules. We have to get creative about staying connected and involved sometimes.
We also realize even though we are aware of these sobering statistics regarding media, friends of our teens’ parents may not know about the risks. We needed to set safety nets for our teens as their funnel of freedom grew more open with their age and their maturity level.
Hubs and I had already adjusted our media House Rules throughout our parenting adventures. After studying the sobering realities we revisited our media House Rules again. We kept some of our policies. And, we added new ones as we integrated our new knowledge.
What About You?
Are there any of these factoids that you find alarming or sobering? How do you see media influencing your teens?
The above isn’t professional counseling. It is good, sound information from a mom who is also a marriage family therapist – Sometimes referred to as “The Teen Whisperer.” If you would like to get in touch with me, don’t hesitate to contact me at kate@katepieperlmft or by calling 530-268-3558. Parenting teens is tough these days. I might be able to help.