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Tennessee Parents Compete for Attention of Screen-Saturated Teens

February 8, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee parents should be wary of too much "screen time." A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study of 2,000 children aged eight to 18 nationwide found they spend an average of over seven hours a day interacting with digital media.

Lu Hanessian, 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 actually quite concerned and disturbed by the amount of time that children today, teenagers, are spending on devices and computers. It actually concerns me not just for the kids, but for their future."

Hanessian says Tennessee parents could see their children lose interest in school and not respond to discipline because of texting and Facebook updating. She says the attachment that grew between parent and infant can be strained by electronic device distractions, but that 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 empathic state, that connection, the attachment?"

The study found that over two-thirds of children 11 to 14 own a cell phone and spend an average of an hour and a half each day texting.

Critics of the study findings point out that electronic communication and computer skills are essential for future business success.

The study is "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds." It is available from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation at www.kff.org

Randy O'Brien, Public News Service - TN