Did your kids watch the VH1 Awards? Do you really know?The media are exposing children to too much overly sexual and violent content, but parents are increasingly finding ways to shield their children from programming of which they don’t approve.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Parents are growing more confident that they can protect their kids from inappropriate content on TV, the Internet and video games, a new poll has found, but still worry that their children are exposed to too much sex and violence.

The mixed results from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation will probably provide ammunition for both sides in the increasingly heated debate over shielding children from excessive sex and violence in the media.

About two-thirds of parents polled are still "very concerned" that children in general are exposed to too much risque and bloody programming and support new federal restrictions on what broadcasters can air during early-evening hours. But parents who use the V-chip, a device in most TVs that allows programs to be blocked, generally find it very useful.

"It may not be a perfect system . . . but parents who use it, like it," said Jim Dyke, head of TV Watch, which represents broadcasters and other groups opposed to more government regulation.

Rather than having the FCC decide what we get to watch, the market is making the necessary adjustments, the report suggests. However, the current system—pressed by the federal government during the Clinton administration—remains confusing and less effective than most would prefer.The LA Times report continues:

Vicky Rideout, director of Kaiser’s Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health, agreed there was a mixed message in the poll of 1,008 parents of children under 18 years old and focus groups held in Irvine, Dallas, Chicago and Washington.

"While parents are still concerned about the broader media environment that they’re raising their kids in … most of them feel like they’re managing to cobble together the tools they need to do a pretty good job of monitoring media their own children are exposed to, at least while they’re at home," Rideout said.

The percentage of parents who are "very concerned" that their children are seeing too much inappropriate content has dropped since a similar study in 1998—from 67% to 51% for sex, from 62% to 46% for violence and from 59% to 41% for adult language. . . .

Use of TV ratings by parents is up from 42% in 1998 to 49%. Only 16% of parents said they have ever used the V-chip, but 71% of those who did found it "very useful." Nearly half of parents who have TVs with the V-chip, required since 2000 in all sets manufactured with screens larger than 13 inches, were unaware it was there.

The V-Chip, in short, is not of much use to people, but the ratings definitely are. Most TVs and programming services allow viewers to set the levels of various content that may be viewed on a particular set, and I suspect that a lot of people are doing that. The most likely approach, however, is that parents are simply keeping an eye on what their kids are watching, and telling them to turn off the more offensive stuff.

And there’s always the possibility that parents imagine that they’re monitoring their kids’ viewing much more effectively than they actually are. . . .