Parents Worry About TV Ads; Feel More In Control Online

Benjamin Franklin once said nothing is certain but death and taxes. It's time to add advertising to this lineup.

According to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 70% of parents worry their kids see too much advertising. Some are more alarmed than others--one in three parents (34%) say they're very concerned, while 35% say they're somewhat concerned that their kids are exposed to too many TV ads. And it's not just the amount of advertising that bothers parents--it's the content as well.

"It's a real frustration," says Vicky Rideout, vice president and director of Kaiser's Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health. "Parents feel they're juggling media ratings tools and parental advisories. They look for safe versions of songs, and they check out their kids' MySpace profiles and monitor IMing and e-mails. Yet they can't control things like TV advertising.

"They check the ratings of the shows," she added, "but can't control the ads with scantily clad women or promos for upcoming programs that pull out the most salacious parts of the shows, like the violent or highly charged sexual scenes."

This frustration comes at a time when most parents (65%) are very concerned that their kids are overexposed to inappropriate media content in general.

The solution? Many parents are taking things into their own hands. Compared to 1998, parental use of music advisories has increased to 52% from 41%, while about half of all parents use TV and video-game ratings.

But parents think the government and TV networks should step in to help.

The survey found that 66% of parents favor government regulations to limit TV content during early evening hours. In regard to inappropriate advertising, Rideout says many parents feel networks should only show commercials that are consistent with the age group for which the programming is intended, i.e., put an end to the horrific promos for "House" during commercial breaks for the very kid-popular "American Idol."

These concerns are perhaps propelling parents to keep a tighter rein on their kids' media consumption than ever before. The Kaiser study, released Tuesday, found that 65% of parents closely monitor their kids' media use.

The study consists of a random telephone survey of 1,008 U.S. parents of kids ages 2 to 17, as well as six parental focus groups.

Parents say they're paying particular attention to their kids' online activities.

Among the parents with kids 9 or older who use the Internet at home, nearly 75% say they know "a lot" about what their kids are doing online: 87% say they check their kids' instant messaging buddy lists; 82% review their kids' profiles on MySpace and other social networking sites; and 76% check to see what Web sites their kids have visited.

Four out of 10 of these parents say they use parental controls to block access to certain Web sites. And among the parents of kids who use e-mail, 39% say they read their child's e-mail or look in their inbox.

Rideout says she was surprised so many parents feel they have things under control.

"Three out of four parents think they know a lot about what their kids are doing on the Internet," she says. "Going into this, I thought parents would say they feel outgunned technologically. I'm encouraged by their confidence."

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