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North Carolina Parents Compete for Attention of Screen-Saturated Teens



February 18, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - American youths spend an average of more than seven hours a day interacting with digital media, according to a new study which suggests that North Carolina parents should be wary of too much "screen time."

The Kaiser Family Foundation study surveyed 2,000 young people ages 8 to 18 nationwide.

Lu Hanessian, a mother, journalist and author of "Let the Baby Drive," says too much screen time makes it difficult for children to relate to their parents and other children.

"I am quite concerned and disturbed by the amount of time that children today are spending on devices and computers - not just for the kids, but for their future."

More than two-thirds of children ages 11 to 14 own a cell phone and spend an average of 1 1/2 hours each day texting, the study found.

Critics of the findings point out that electronic communication and computer skills are essential for future business success. However, Hanessian says parents could see their children lose interest in school and not respond to discipline because of texting and Facebook updating. The attachment that grew between parent and infant can be strained by electronic-device distractions, she says, but it's never too late to re-establish those essential ties.

"It's really hard to set a limit with a child who's losing empathy. They don't care! So, the question to me is, how do we reclaim that connection, the attachment?"

The Pew Foundation finds that teens send on average five times the number of cell-phone texts than do adults. The dominant use of social media extends beyond teens; according to Nielsen research, Americans spend 23 percent of their time on the Internet on social networking sites such as Facebook.

Details of the study, "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds," can be viewed at kff.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC