In this study, the researchers surveyed 248 U.S. parents of early adolescents about their media monitoring behaviors, the family context, and perceptions of their children’s problematic internet use. The results revealed that restrictive parental monitoring (including rules and limits of time or content) of adolescents’ digital media use was associated with children’s problematic internet use. However, active monitoring (efforts to promote critical thinking of the media by discussing central themes, character choices, and implicit messages of content) and deference monitoring (intentional avoidance of restrictions, often in an attempt to showcase parental trust in children’s decision-making) were not associated with early adolescent problematic internet use and were associated with family contexts.
Qualitative interviews with a subset of 31 parents revealed that while most parents reported restrictive behaviors, multiple techniques (e.g., active, surveillant, and deference) were also leveraged when navigating children’s online behaviors. Parents tended to converge on the same types and reasons for restrictive monitoring, whereas for other approaches the reasons behind their decision-making were quite different.
The implication of this study is that parental media monitoring behaviors during early adolescence are rapidly evolving and not confined to a single strategy. Understanding the family dynamics and parental involvement in adolescents’ digital media use remains critical in preventing children’s problematic behaviors and promoting positive online behaviors.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under award number 1R15HD094281-01 and Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.