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Many Parents Frown on Kids' Internet Use, Survey Says

TUESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Many American parents view television and the Internet with the same concern and are using similar methods to limit their children's use of both mediums, suggests a new survey.

About 57 percent of households restrict Internet use as a way to punish children, a rate similar to the 60 percent of households that restrict TV as a form of punishment, according to the survey of 1,926 Americans over age 12 conducted by the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California.

Many parents also say Internet access at home is reducing the amount of time their children spend in person with friends, found the survey, conducted online and by phone.

The survey also confirmed a sharp drop in family face-to-face time, or "face time," in Internet-connected households. During the first half of the decade, personal contact in families averaged 26 hours a week. That fell to just less than 18 hours a week by 2010. This trend is likely because of increased involvement in online communities, according to Michael Gilbert, a senior fellow at the center.

Previous center surveys suggest that about half of people involved in an online community value it as highly as their real world communities.

"With all the digital diversions out there, it's hard to pin this on any one thing," but it seems clear that online social networks are replacing family face time, Gilbert said in a USC news release.

"We need to make sure families are reinforced rather than weakened in the digital future," he added.

The survey findings confirm the center's predictions about rising parental displeasure with the Internet, says center director Jeffrey Cole.

While families have turned many technological advances, such as the telephone, to their advantage, the interactive demands of online social networks and digital technology can cause extraordinary stress for families, Cole noted.

More information

The Nemours Foundation explains how parents can encourage healthy television, Internet and video game habits.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Southern California, news release, December 2010

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