For decades now, doctors, teachers, and developmental psychologists have been warning about the perils of TV viewing for children. Parents often feel guilty about letting their kids watch, but nevertheless continue to do so.
58% of kids under 8 watch TV at least once a day. 14% of children 6 – 23 months old watch two or more hours of media a day. A third (36%) of all kids have a TV in their bedroom. Over the past few decades, we have added many more screens into the mix. Children 8 and under now average 2 hours a day actively using a screen: 50% of that time is watching TV, 19% watching DVD’s, 13% using mobile devices (tablets or smart phones), 10% on computers, and 9% on video game players. Children 8 – 18 average 6. 5 hours of screen time a day (more time than they spend in school) and much of that is media multi-tasking – texting while watching TV, listening to an IPod while working on a computer, etc. The biggest change in recent years has been mobile devices. In 2011, half of children had access to one. By 2013, three quarters did. 72% of children under 8 have used a mobile device for playing games, watching videos, or using apps. 17% use them on a daily basis. Even amongst children under 2, 38% have used a mobile device.
So, screen time is no longer just time spent in front of a TV in the family living room. Instead, screens are with us 24 hours a day, everywhere we go: in the car, at the playground, in restaurants, doctor’s offices, etc. And we use them in all those places! Not only do parents use mobile devices to distract kids (16% of parents use screens for their child when they need to go to a meeting or take a class, and 44% use device-distraction when they’re running errands) but parents also use them to distract themselves while hanging out with kids (32% use them while their child plays in the playground.)
Given that screens are such a huge part of modern life, it doesn’t make sense for educators to preach a “just say no” attitude toward screen use for children. Instead, we need to think about using screens consciously, aware of the benefits and risks, and keeping in mind our long-term goals for our kids.
Common Sense Media, Children’s Media Use in America, 2013. www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america-2013
Children, Adolescents and the Media – AAP policy statement: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/5/958.full.pdf
Media Use by Children Younger than 2 years old – AAP policy statement. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/5/1040.full.pdf