Sorry, Britney, family tops charts for pre-teens' trust

Poll: Kids rely most on parents, police and friends for advice, according to a new public television survey.

Family Matters

March 24, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,Sun Staff

They may swoon for 'N Sync, be slaves to Britney and clamor for Shaq's autograph, but when it comes to the people they trust, today's preteens don't stray far from those they see every day.

Nearly 10,000 kids responded to an online questionnaire at www.pbskids. org / zoom designed to gauge who they looked to for guidance and support. The results were not only surprising, but may be reassuring to families everywhere.

They trusted parents, teachers and local law enforcement over music celebrities and sports stars.

"We can trust the family to have their best interests at heart," says Ben Gervey, director at Applied Research and Consulting, which worked with the PBS series Zoom to conduct the survey from November to January.

Parents and teachers got the biggest thumbs-up with an 86 percent approval rating each. Police scored well with an 83 percent on the trustworthiness scale. Friends received 77 percent.

At the other end of the scale, 35 percent of these kids believed music celebrities told them the truth, with sports stars dipping to 30 percent.

Gervey's research, which was released recently, points to a much more skeptical group of youngsters "very attuned to the expertise of the speaker," he says. So depending on the topic, kids will gravitate toward those they consider knowledgeable in a certain area, trusting peers with issues related to being a kid or NBA players Vince Carter or Allen Iverson for recommendations on basketball shoes.

"It really seems to underscore the idea that kids are becoming much more savvy consumers of the media than ever before," Gervey says. "They have greater access to information than at any other time in history and as a result they've been forced to find ways to sift through it."

Gervey says he is not surprised about how the kids responded, but he does see the divide as significant. "Trust is developed over time and there's been a real shift in how children approach the media," he says. "This isn't the '50s. People have a lot of issues with trust, with all these messages trying to persuade them to go one way or another."

These results, Gervey says, "signal a loss of naivete, almost as if kids are being forced to develop a filtering mechanism. It makes the source of information important to trustworthiness."

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