How to be a better role model

By Teresa Tomeo
Eye on Culture

If being a better example or serving as a better role model for the children in your life was one of your New Year’s Resolutions, some new studies show how making that happen is actually pretty simple.

It starts with backing away from the TV and putting down that cell phone or lap top – certainly not anything we haven’t heard before. It’s simple but given the extremely high media usage rate among Moms and Dads, it’s not necessarily going to be an easy change to make.

New studies from the non-profit group Common Sense Media and Northwestern University found that parents consume more than nine hours of screen time per day on their phones, tablets and computers. What’s even more mind boggling is what else the researchers discovered. Despite spending more time in front of a screen than most people spend at the office each day, parents still see themselves as good role models where media usage is concerned. More proof according to those behind the study that as an old saying reminds us: Denial is not just another river in Egypt.

According to the report released last year, parents spend most of their media time, 82 percent, with personal screens and less than two hours are work related.  Parents use more than an hour and a half of screen media for work.

“I found the numbers astounding, the sheer volume of technology used by parents. There really is a big disconnect between their own behavior and their self-perception, as well as a perception of their kids,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media said in a statement. Common Sense Media is an organization that helps families balance media usage.

More than 1,700 parents of children ages 8 to 18 were surveyed for the study, The Common Sense Census: Plugged in Parents of Tweens and Teens, which also revealed that they’re very concerned about their children’s media usage especially how it might impact their privacy, their sleeping habits, and vision health. Concerns about cyber bullying were also mentioned.

“These findings are fascinating because parents are using media for entertainment just as much as their kids, yet they express concerns about their kids’ media use while also believing that they are good role models for their kids,” Steyer added.

While the negative aspects of media usage were discussed, 94 percent of the parents questioned also agreed technology can be a positive influence aiding them in their class work and eventually in future job opportunities. The Common Sense Census posted on the group’s web site,, had several other major findings including:

  • Fifty percent of parents indicate that they thought using social media hurts children’s physical activity.
  • Parents are “moderately” or “extremely” worried about kids spending too much time online (43 percent), over-sharing personal details (38 percent), accessing online pornography (36 percent) and being exposed to images or videos of violence (36 percent).
  • Two-thirds (67 percent) of parents say that monitoring child media use is more important than respecting their children’s privacy.
  •  A majority of parents report that mobile devices are not allowed during family meals (78 percent) or bedtime (63 percent).

Again, good to see parents aware of the obvious challenges and potential dangers of too much media for their children, but those major disconnects with their own media issues are not so good. That’s why Steyer suggests it might be time for parents to put down the iPads and pick up the mirrors to do a little self-reflecting in hopes of being better examples.

“Media can add a lot of value to relationships, education, and development, and parents clearly see the benefits, but if they are concerned about too much media in their kids’ lives, it might be time to reassess their own behavior so that they can truly set the example they want for their kids,” he said.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, Sirius Channel 130, and Channel 88.1 FM KFHC, Sioux City and KOIA, Storm Lake.


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