How Restricting Children’s Media Use Can Backfire
Restricting teens’ media use can backfire, a study in the Journal of Children and Media reveals. In this study, young adults report that the more their media use was restricted by their parents during their high school years, the less they liked their parents and the more they liked and consumed the restricted content.
- Restricting teens’ media use can result in a less positive parent-child relation and increased liking and consumption of the restricted content.
- This implies that parents’ enforced media restrictions can also have undesirable effects.
- For parents and educators it is important to be aware that restricted media content can become a ‘forbidden fruit’: when restricted it becomes even more attractive.
Is there a link between restricted parental mediation and unintended effects, such as negative attitudes towards the parents, and high liking and consumption of the restricted content? And what is the role of children’s reactance towards the restrictions in this?
483 undergraduate students between the ages of 18-23 y/o (mean age: 20 y/o; 65% were female; 73% were Caucasian, 15% Hispanic or Latino, 7% African-American, and the rest had other ethnical backgrounds).
All students were first asked to what degree their parents restricted their media consumption during high school (i.e., prohibit certain media content, limit the amount of time spent with media or define specific media use hours). Students’ level of reactance towards the media restrictions they received was assessed by obtaining their perceived threat to freedom, their state of reactance (counter-arguing or reactions of anger), and their reactance restoration (intentions to act in compliance or opposition to the instruction or recommendations they received). Unintended effects of restricted parental mediation were assessed as well by asking the students for their attitudes towards their parents and towards the restricted content during high school, and their former viewing behaviors of restricted content with friends.
Facts and findings
- Young adults reported that the more their parents restricted their media use, the less they liked their parents.
- This can be explained by increased feelings of reactance: Young adults whose parents restricted their media use during their high school years, felt a threat to freedom, which led to counter-arguing and anger, and in turn resulted in more negative attitudes towards their parents.
- Young adults also reported that the more their parents restricted their media use, the more they liked and consumed the restricted media content.
- Again, this can be explained by increased feelings of reactance: Young adults whose media use was restricted by their parents, felt a threat to freedom, which led to counter-arguing and anger and also to increased intentions to not comply to their parents’ rules, and in turn resulted in more favorable attitudes towards and higher consumption of the restricted media content with friends.
- This implies that parents’ enforced media restrictions can have unintended and undesirable effects.
- Critical note: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (restricted parental mediation) and effect (unintended effects). The results only show that the parental restrictions on media content young adults received during high school are associated with their former attitudes towards their parents, the restricted content, and their viewing behaviors of the restricted content.