Media Coverage of Election Day: What It Means for Children & Teenagers

Kara Powell | Nov 6, 2012

If you're like most folks today on Election Day, you're likely to be more tuned into media today to get a glimpse of how the national, state and local races are unfolding. If you've got a child or teenager near you, odds are good they are already pretty exposed to media - not just today but every day.

In analyzing a host of recent research and studies, the new "Media Use and Attitudes Report" has found:

  • For the first time this report contains indicative data on the media habits of 3-4 year olds. This indicates that many in this age group are using a range of different media devices, including over a third who are going online using a desktop PC, laptop or netbook and 6% who are going online via a tablet computer.
  • Children, particularly 12-15s, are prolific social networkers with large numbers of friends – an average of 92 friends for 8-11s and 286 for 12-15s. This has implications for how children protect and share personal information, given that personal data available to “friends” on social networking sites is likely to be shared with large numbers of people.
  • While most children would tell someone if they encountered something inappropriate, a minority were unsure or would not tell anyone. This suggests that some parents and children may need support and advice in dealing with these kinds of incident.
  • Parents’ concerns about content online and on TV are decreasing, and most parents are taking some sort of action to mediate their children’s media use. However, lack of confidence in using the internet is an issue for a number of parents, and the risks of, for instance, grooming, cyber-bullying or access to inappropriate content are not always front-of-mind for many parents.
  • When considered against the backdrop of the early age at which children start to use the internet, the proliferation in the types of device children are using to access the internet, and the fact that many parents feel that their children are more proficient users of the internet than they are, these findings suggest that some parents may need support to fully assess the risks and take informed steps to protect their children in the way they feel is most appropriate.

For those of us who have tracked (informally or formally) young people's engagement with media and technology, this report doesn't contain too many surprises. However, what might be more surprising is that parents don't feel equipped to respond and navigate the media maze ahead of them.

As a leader or parent, if you want to help other parents know how to best monitor their child's media usage, consider the following:

  1. Read the report to see what questions it raises.
  2. Help parents connect with other parents to learn from each other.
  3. Make sure you talk with kids - your own kids and other kids - about their use of technology. But don't lecture; ask them questions.

Today I'm praying for God's will to be done in the election. Regardless of the outcome, one thing we know for sure is that we will need to continue to navigate media use in our homes and in our churches.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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