Media Technology Makes Good Servant but Bad Master?

    OTTAWA, Oct. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Instant messaging. Webcams. Music and film
downloads. Camera cell phones. Blogging. The proliferation of so many new
forms of electronic technologies is having profound and far-reaching effects
on children and families, according to a new Contemporary Family Trends paper,
"Good Servant, Bad Master: Electronic Media and the Family," released today by
the Vanier Institute of the Family.
    Author Arlene Moscovitch reviews Canadian and international research to
document the explosion of media technologies and their pervasiveness in our

    - Kids spend nearly six and a half hours per day with media, often
      simultaneously interacting with several.
    - Preschoolers are the fastest growing group of online users.
    - Almost 70% of children under two in the U.S. spend roughly two hours a
      day watching television programs or videos.
    - Almost all students in grades 4 to 11 have access to a computer at
      home, over 60% have high-speed access, almost 70% have access to a cell
    - The advertising budget for young consumers is over $2-billion per year
      and estimates are that children see over 40,000 ads a year on
      television alone.

    While media technologies can provide important benefits in areas of
entertainment and learning, or by helping busy families stay connected, the
report highlights several issues of concern:

    - Heavy users of electronic media in all age groups spend less time
      interacting with partners, children and friends.
    - Researchers fear that excessive exposure to media among very young
      children may lead to problems of attention control, aggressive
      behaviour and poor cognitive development.
    - At a time when obesity and diabetes rates are rising among children,
      97% of the food advertisements during children's programming are for
      foods high in sugar, salt and fat.
    - Many parents worry about children being on-line for long periods and
      the kinds of things to which they are exposed.

    The key to keeping the servant from becoming the master, stresses
Moscovitch, is for parents to adopt some simple guidelines:

    - Give kids age appropriate rules and negotiate boundaries about media
    - Help kids become more media literate, to think more critically about
      the media.
    - Be good role models.
    - Create parents' groups devoted to protecting kids.

    Further, she argues, to some extent society must also be held
accountable, adopting legislation and policies that protect children who are
vulnerable to the messages they are bombarded with every day, such as a code
of conduct for media professionals.
    Executive director of the VIF Clarence Lochhead wholeheartedly agrees.
"We need to develop a cultural atmosphere that works in the best interests of
children and families, not against it. Some aspects of media technologies have
become public health issues. It is time for public debate about how we can
protect our children from their ill effects." (Press Release) (Full Report)

    The Vanier Institute of the Family, established in 1965 is a national,
charitable organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of Canadian
Families. Its mission is to create awareness of, and to provide leadership on,
the importance and strengths of families in Canada and the challenges they
face in their structural, demographic, economic, cultural and social

For further information:

For further information: Arlene Moscovitch, Report Author, (416)
531-3108,; Alan Mirabelli, Executive Associate, The
Vanier Institute of the Family, (613) 228-8500 ext. 212,

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