A report shows how young children interact with digital media, as well as how parents prefer to spend time with them. Most like TV and books better than video games.

Families are still figuring out how to incorporate new media into their entertainment and education arsenal - more parents play board games or watch TV with their kids than play video games with them. The June report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, "Families Matter: Designing Media for a Digital Age" discusses findings of how parents view video games and digital devices, as well as makes recommendations for game and device designers.

This study covers children aged three to ten, and asks questions regarding what media kids use at home, as well as "their attitudes toward and rules around these media." The oldest medium of interest, television, also is the most often used - 95 percent of children watch TV, with computers second place at 85 percent. Many children (68%) use TV-based video game consoles, such as as Wii, Playstation and Xbox. Just over half use handheld video game devices like the Nintendo DS, iPod Touch, etc. Less often, kids use portable music devices (35%), cell phones (35%), or smartphones (14%) to access media. These last numbers are very different for tweens, eighty percent of whom own MP3 players, 69 percent of whom own cell phones.

Parents are participating with their kids in media - but are enjoying old media more. Most watch TV, read books or play board games together, but play video or computer games much less often. The numbers for favorite media with their kids ran parallel, with very few citing newer media as how they prefer to spend time with their kids.

Some of this may be explained by parental concerns or perceptions about digital media - that they keep kids from exercise, or raise privacy issues. But more often parents understand the importance of computer-literacy, such as acquiring skills for school or future careers.

With these usages in mind, there is much room for innovation. Designing games for children under ten and their parents to play together could be a successful way to engage more parents as digital consumers. Media must also be designed to meet developmental needs of young users - cognitively as well as physically with new gesture input systems (viz. Xbox's Kinect), the report advises.

By Ivory King