Electronic Media and the Youngest Kids

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Toddler boy with a video controller in his hands, smiling.

Recently we discovered some studies from the Kaiser Family Foundation entitled:

The first study shares the results of a telephone survey of more than 1,000 parents of children ages six months through six years.

We won’t review the entire study, but you can download it thru the links above, but will highlight a few of the most pertinent findings (and no, we aren’t just picking out the points that agree with our personal convictions. the entire study was not very supportive of the use of most types of media in the lives of young children, and we see value in applying their findings to our entire family.

Children today (6 months to 6 years old) are growing up immersed in media  

  • 99% have a TV in their home
  • 50% have three or more TVs
  • 36% have a TV in their bedroom
  • 73% have computer in the home
  • 49% have a video game system
  • 63% have internet access
  • 34% have a newspaper subscription

Children (6 months to 6 years old) in these homes spend an average of:

  • 2 hours per day with screen media (TV, video game or computer)
  • 2 hours per day playing outside
  • 39 minutes reading or being read to

Homes where the television is:

  • on at least half of the time: 65%
  • on constantly (even if no one is watching): 36%
  • used to occupy the children when the parents are busy: 45%

The survey revealed that even the very youngest children are highly exposed to TV and other screen media

Children under two who have ever:

  • watched TV: 74%
  • watched videos: DVDs: 70%
  • used a computer: 11%
  • played video games: 3%

The survey also showed that 43% of children under two-years-old watch TV every day and 26% of them have a TV in their bedrooms.

Maybe you think these conclusions reveal a normal, healthy life, but the experts who conducted the study are concerned about the detrimental effects that the consumption of technology media has on the very youngest in our society.  Take time to read the survey, especially the parts about anger and aggressive behavior and come to your own conclusions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two do not watch any television at all and that children between the ages of 2 and six-years-old be limited to two hours of educational screen media per day.

Children who know how to read (ages 2 to 6 years-old)

  • 24% in TV heavy households
  • 36% in other homes

And the final statistic from this survey that really stood out to us was the amount of aggressive behavior that children imitated from watching TV. These 1000 parents reported that they saw:

Percent of parents who have seen their 4 to 6-year-olds imitate behavior from TV:

  • Positive Behavior
    • Boys: 84%
    • Girls: 89%
  • Aggressive Behavior
    • Girls: 47%
    • Boys: 59%

Hopefully, information like this will help you evaluate the media that you allow to infiltrate your home and influence your young children. For our family, this survey completely validated our decisions that we should limit screen time, spend more time reading to and with our kids, playing board games and definitely not have a TV or computer in any of our bedrooms. Read the entire survey and see if you come to the same conclusions.

The second study “Generation M2” revealed that as in the lives of 8 to 18-year-olds, as more media was consumed, grades declined, as did good relationships with parents and overall satisfaction with life. It says a lot more, so please take the time to read the study.

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