August 24, 2011
Washington, DC—As millions of children across the country kick off a new school year this month, family schedules will return once again to classes, homework, and busy after-school routines. Many working parents may be concerned with how their kids will be using the TV, the Internet, or one of the many wireless devices at kids’ disposal. Costs, appropriate content, and privacy protections are just a few issues on parents’ minds when it comes to these devices and services. The National Consumers League (NCL) has developed new tools to help parents understand the resources at their disposal for monitoring and – where desired - restricting their children’s activities, even when they can’t be there in person.
American teens and tweens are using technology independently from their parents more than ever before, with some 75 percent of 12-17 year-olds now owning cell phones, and 93 percent of American teens using the Internet, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics, founds that kids between the ages of 3 and 5 are exposed to an average of 73 minutes of TV, video games, or DVD-watching every day. The AAP report also found that young children exposed to violent content are more likely to experience sleeping problems, and those with TVs in their rooms are even more at risk.
Too much screen-time and exposure to inappropriate content aren’t the only issues for parents. According to OTX and the Intelligence Group, 58 percent of teens make purchases online and the average teen spends $46 per month on such purchases. Given recession-strapped household budgets, it’s more important than ever for parents to help manage their children’s online shopping habits.
“Many parents are aware that there is plenty of adult content out there that they don’t want their children to get their hands on. What they may not know is that there are many tools available to monitor and restrict kids’ access to that content,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “NCL has surveyed what is available for parents looking to put in place reasonable restrictions, and posted the information on our Web site in an easy-to-use format for parents to better understand their options – many of which are free.”
NCL’s new tools are available at www.nclnet.org, and focus on the places children are most likely to access objectionable content—television, cable and satellite, wireless communications, and the Internet—and include tips both on how to access existing parental controls features and how to talk to children about appropriate limits.
NCL acknowledges Verizon for an unrestricted educational grant that made the consumer content possible.
"Raising consumer awareness about the availability and utility of parental control technologies is essential given the ubiquity of communications technologies," said Kathy Brown, Verizon's Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility. "Empowering consumers to take control of their families' technology use is an important goal in today's always-on, interconnected world."
NCL’s advice for parents includes tips ranging from how to talk to children about what is acceptable to where the best place is to set up a family computer. Parents are encouraged to find out where they’re spending their time online, have open and honest dialogue, and to not let concerns about invading their children’s privacy stop them from doing your job as a parent. For more, visit http://www.nclnet.org/technology/149-parental-controls/537-parental-controls.
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.