A new study has pointed out that parents have begun restricting the time kids spend on the internet.
According to a new survey by the Center for the Digital Future, at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, parents are rapidly coming to regard TV and the web as similar distractions for their children - both of which require supervision.
In a worrisome trend, the Center also reports in its 2010 survey that an increasing percentage of parents say Internet access at home is reducing their children's in-person time with friends.
Researchers at the Center report parents are now limiting their children's Internet access and television use in nearly identical ways. Three in five American households restrict television use as a punishment, a figure that's hardly budged over the past decade.
Restricting children's Internet use as a form of punishment has steadily increased over the years and is now a practice in 57 percent of the nation's homes with children under 18.
The new survey also shows, however, that parents are still more comfortable about the amount of time their children spend on the Internet v. television, with 69 percent saying it was just about right (v. 57 percent for television); only 28 percent thought their children spent too much time on the Internet, against 41 percent who thought television time was excessive.
Michael Gilbert, author of The Disposable Male and a senior fellow at the Center, also points to a steady increase over the years in parental reports of (their) children spending less time in person with friends since gaining access to the Internet.
Seven percent of households with children under 18 registered this concern when the Center's surveys began in 2000, a figure that increased to eleven percent, a decade later.
Its most recent surveys also confirm the Center's earlier report of a sharp drop off in family face-to-face time in Internet-connected households, starting in 2007. From an average of 26 hours per week during the first half of the decade, family face time had fallen to just under 18 hours per week by 2010.
Gilbert, whose work at the Center is focused on gender and family issues, believes online community involvements are playing a significant role in reducing family time. He points to Center surveys, which, since 2006, indicate roughly half of those involved with an online community value it as highly as their real world ones.
"With all the digital diversions out there, it's hard to pin this on any one thing," says Gilbert, but he believes Americans' growing attachment to social networks, and the increased time they often demand, has clearly begun to displace family face time. "We need to make sure families are reinforced rather than weakened in the digital future."