Many Parents Fret Over Time Kids Spend on Phones, Computers

TUESDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) — Many American parents are worried that the large amount of time teens spend immersed in electronic media makes it difficult to discuss the dangers of risky behavior such as drug and alcohol use, a new study indicates.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America surveyed more than 1,200 parents and found that more than one-third are concerned about how TV (38 percent), computers (37 percent) and video games (33 percent) hinder parent-child communications.

More than one-quarter of parents are also worried about new forms of media such as cell phone texting (27 percent), and social networking sites such as Facebook (25 percent) and Twitter (19 percent).

A Kaiser Family Foundation study released earlier this year found that young people (aged 8 to 18) spend an average of 53 hours a week using electronic media. It also found that the more time they spend with electronic media, the less happy they tend to be. The heaviest users of electronic media also tended to get lower grades in school.

“These new findings present a unique opportunity for parents to play a more active role in what their kids are watching, monitor how they are spending their time online and remain aware of the impact all of this media consumption is having on their impressionable teens,” Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, said in an organization news release.

“We know that kids today are bombarded with pro-drug and drinking messages via everything from song lyrics, movies and video games, to social networking sites. Videos of kids abusing cough medicine and common household products to get high are all too accessible online and that’s why it’s more important than ever for parents to break through the media noise and make their voices heard,” he added.

One way for parents to do that is to use electronic devices to connect with their teens to begin and maintain a dialogue about avoiding risky behaviors. While not as good as an in-person conversation, parents can use e-mail, cell phones and texting to begin a dialogue with a reluctant teen, and to reinforce safety messages at times when teen drug use and drinking is more likely, such as after school, on weekends and during unsupervised periods.

To help parents, the Partnership offers a free, downloadable guide called “Time to Text,” which provides advice on how to text and offers examples of messages to send to teens. The guide can be found at

“Some parents may still feel apprehensive about embracing media and technology as a way of communicating with their children, but in today’s world it is vital that they connect with their kids in any way possible,” Pasierb said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics explains how parents can prevent children from using drugs.