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Parents Monitor Kids' Media

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WASHINGTON For all the hand-wringing policymakers do over television, parents say they are gaining control over what their kids watch, according to a survey released Tuesday.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's national survey of 1,008 parents of children ages 2-17, an overwhelming majority say they "closely" monitor their children's media use, while only 18 percent say they "should do more."

"While parents are still concerned about a lot of what they see in the media, most are surprisingly confident that they've got a handle on what their own kids are seeing and doing—even when it comes to the Internet," said Vicky Rideout, vp and director of Kaiser's Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health.

The survey found that the proportion of parents who say they are "very" concerned that their own children are exposed to inappropriate content has dropped, from 67 percent to 50 percent for sexual content, from 62 percent to 45 percent for violence, and from 60 percent to 40 percent for adult language since 1998.

According to the survey, parents showed confidence that they can monitor their children's online activities. Nearly three out of four parents say they know "a lot" about what their kids are doing online. Almost 90 percent whose children engage in Internet activities say they check their children's Instant Messaging "buddy lists," while just over 80 percent review their children's profiles on social networking sites, and about three-quarters of the parents look to see what sites their children visited after they've gone online.

Parents still have significant concerns about children's exposure to inappropriate media content in general. Two-thirds of them say they are "very" concerned that children in this country are exposed to too much inappropriate content in the media and a similar proportion favor government regulations to limit TV content during early evening hours. Minority parents express the most concern: Black and Latino parents are more likely than whites to say they are "very concerned" about their children's exposure to sex, violence and adult language in the media.

The report, "Parents, Children & Media: A Kaiser Family Foundation Survey," comes as Congress is preparing to take up the issue of violence in the media once again. A hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled for June 26.

While Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was expected to introduce legislation aimed at curbing violence on broadcast and cable TV, he has reportedly decided to delay introduction of a bill.

On June 4, a federal appeals court in New York struck down the FCC's new policy of punishing the fleeting use of the "S-word" and "F-word" on broadcast TV. The ruling has raised doubt about the rationale behind government regulation of broadcast content.