Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 12, 2007
Electronic media short circuits family communication
Vanier Institute releases sobering report warning couples how the Internet robs them of family time
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"People are often more interested in staring at screens than into someone else's eyes."
- Vanier Institute report
The report also raised concerns about privacy, if teens reveal too much in their personal profiles on line.
The report also examined the effects on children of seeing more than 40,000 television ads a year, noting that during children's programming 97 per cent of advertising promoted junk food, soft drinks or sugary cereal.
The report said "skyrocketing" child obesity rates have been "fueled in part" by this onslaught. Rates have more than doubled between 1981 and 1996, from five per cent for both sexes to 14 per cent for boys and 12 per cent for girls.
The report notes that the ill effects are not only physical, but have a negative effect in shaping children's values and goals, often making them more materialistic or pleasure-seeking.
The report acknowledges the upside of the "age of connectivity," noting that never have people communicated more. They are able to stay in touch with relatives and friends and develop communities of interest across the globe. But it points out how constant connectivity has a price.
"Whether it's parents surreptitiously checking BlackBerrys during their children's concerts or students barely able to be separated from their cell phones during school hours, it is hard to avoid the feeling that people are often more interested in staring at screens than into someone else's eyes," it says.
The report reveals a growing anxiety among parents about their children's use of electronic media.
"Besides feeling somewhat intimidated (or outfoxed) by their children's greater technological expertise, parents are also busier than they have ever been and even if they have fears, many feel they don't have the time to do anything about it."
"The upshot of this is many kids are 'home alone' when it comes to their media use."
The report says children and youth need to become "critical thinkers and savvy media consumers" to manage the barrage of media material. The report offers several recommendations on how parents can manage their children's media use.
"All parents need to read this report," said MichŠle Boulva, director of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF). "All parents need to educate themselves and their children about the impact of the media."
Earlier this year, COLF issued its own leaflet entitled The Media: A Fascinating Challenge for the Family that has a complementary set of suggestions for parents.
"The role of parents is of primary importance. They have a right and duty to ensure the prudent use of the media by their children," she said.
Boulva also said Catholic parents need to discover and publicize the various Catholic media - newspapers, television, radio and Internet sites - available. "We need to discover them and help our kids to discover them, because these media are not well known and do a wonderful job of proposing the Catholic perspective on life."
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