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New Kaiser Study Sends Mixed Message

According to a new study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of parents say they closely monitor their children's media use and are "getting control" of their exposure to sex and violence in the media. However, less than half the parents polled are concerned about their kids exposure to sex or violence in the media.

In essence, while the parents are concerned about exposure to kids in genreal, most think they have a pretty good handle on their own kids' TV-watching..

But the news isn't all good: The study also found that two-thirds of parents said they are "very" concerned that children in general are exposed to too much "inappropriate content" in the media. And 66% favor government regulation that would "limit TV content during early evening hours."

Jim Dyke, who heads the media backed v-chip/ratings lobby, TV Watch, took some issue with that finding. He says that a study his group did showed that 60% of parents disagreed with the statement: “The current parental controls and ratings systems have failed. It’s time for government to step in and do more.”

V-chip use hasn't increased very much, according to the Kaiser study, and parents still aren't sure how to decipher the ratings system. In fact,  some parents thought that a violence rating was actually a family viewing rating.

The finding that parents are increasingly taking control of the TV is encouraging for media companies, who have been pitching parental control rather than government content regulation, as the response to criticisms of media content from viewers and members of Congress.

Dyke said that it is hard to call for government intervention when "an overwhelming number of parents monitor their children's media use." 

While Kaiser says the numbers are still high, the percentage of parents who say they are concerned with exposure to sexual content has dropped from 67% in a 1998 survey to 51% in its recent poll. For violence, the drop is similar, from 62% to 46%, and from 59% to 41% for adult language.

Parents say they have an even better handle on online content, with 73% saying they know "a lot" about what their kids are doing online. 87% saying they check their children's IM buddy lists, review their profiles on social networking sites like MySpace (82%) and check Websites visited by their children (76%).

Only three in 10 parents of kids 2-6 can identify any of the ratings used in kids shows and only 11% know that FV indicates violence (fantasy violence). According to the study, 9% actually thought it meant "family viewing." Only 11% know that the EI rating means eduational.

Only one in six parents said they had used the v-chip to block content, about the same as in 2004. But eight in 10 of the parents said they have bought a new TV since January 2008, which means they have the capability to block if they choose. However, 57% of parents were unaware they could do that.  

One in three parents said they were concerned about their kids seeing too many ads.