According to Roberts and Foehr (2006) 33% of children under six have a television in their room, while 5% of children in the same age group have a personal computer in their room. Those numbers jump to 68% for television and 31% for computers when children reach the age of 8. As those numbers continue to rise and portable media like digital music players, cell phones, and portable video game players become more ubiquitous it is important to examine the possible effects of having media in a child’s bedroom and children using media alone in their room (Gutnick, et al, 2011).
One of James Steyer’s (2003) recommendations for raising a child in this media saturated environment is to not put a television or computer in a child’s room, and there are several reasons he feels Steyer may feel this way. The first may be the isolation caused by children’s media use in their room. For children under 7 who are in Piaget’s Preoperational Stage of Cognitive Development and are learning to use language, co-viewing informative television with a parent can have positive effects on a child’s attention span and ability to use print media (St. Peters, 1989).
A child consuming media alone also prevents parents from monitoring the content on television or on their computer. The lack of parental oversight could result in children being exposed to objectionable content, like violence, through television programs, movies, and video games. Video games can have an especially negative effect due to the interactive nature of those games (Willenz, 2000). According to Cultivation Theory, “heavy television viewing can cultivate perceptions of the world that are consistent with media portrayals.” Without parent supervision or intervention children may develop a negative view of the world from viewing too much violent or negative content. Whether violent video games or violent television causes more violent behavior in children or aggressive children seek out violent video games is still up for debate, however, the lack of parental oversight in a child’s bedroom makes it much more difficult for the parent to prevent the child from playing the game or watching the violent the movie or show (Jones, 2002). Children watching media alone in their room also prevents the parent from being able to explain the difference between fantasy and real world violence to protect their child’s perceived reality from being negatively by violent media.
Another issue that arises from media consumed privately is the increasing availability of information and media online, which includes material many find offensive or objectionable. Although there are several laws on the books like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which protects the personal information of children under 13 and explains when and how websites should get verifiable parental consent from children, there are still ways children can get around these rules and obtain the objectionable material from the internet. It is much easier for parents to monitor and prevent children from going to objectionable sites if the computer is in a common area of the house and the parent has access to the computer to oversee the child’s computer activity and even install software that can block objectionable sites.
As a child gets older they become more mentally equipped to consume media alone. Tweens and teens in the Formal Operational Stage of Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development can think logically about abstract propositions, like war and violence, and can work through hypotheses systematically. Also, as course work becomes more demanding as they enter middle school and high school, a computer becomes an important tool in education and it may be in their best interest to be able to do their school work in the privacy of their room with fewer distractions that may come with a computer in a common area. The key for parents is to teach children to understand how content on television...
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