Kids and Screen Time

There’s been some research floating around the web lately and Al Mohler is the latest person to do a write up on it. It was The American Academy of Pediatrics that conducted the decade long study and the results are fascinating and worth looking at and keeping in mind when making decisions about kids and media consumption.

Here are some excerpts:

Parents should pay close attention to the group’s statement, released as “Media Use by Children Younger than Two Years.” According to the AAP, 90 percent of parents reported that their children under the age of two “watch some form of electronic media.” These children watch, parents reported, an average of one to two hours of television a day. A considerable number of parents indicated their belief that television is “very important for healthy development,” and leave the television on virtually all waking hours.

I found this a little shocking. Why would anyone think TV would be educational for such a young child and why would anyone leave the TV on all day? It would seem that simply observing your child would lead you to this conclusion. When a child is staring at a glowing light, especially a young one who cannot mentally engage with what is going on, what good is that doing them? Liam is far more interactive when he is exploring on the floor, playing with his toys, or interacting with his parents than when he stops to see what is going on with the big glowing light.

One statistic cited by the group is truly shocking — by age three, almost one third of all children have a television in their bedroom.

Really? What are we thinking parents? How does anyone think this is a good idea? Is it because parents have become lazy and know they can trust the TV to keep their toddler occupied? It’s one thing to have a TV in the living room but to stick it in the room of your toddler just strikes me as totally irresponsible. Which will be best for the kid, face time with mommy and daddy or face time with Teletubbies?

The number of American homes with television outnumbers the number of homes with indoor plumbing. The average American home with children has four televisions, one DVR, up to three DVD players, two CD players, two radios, two computers, and two video game units.

If almost one third of three-year-olds have a television in their bedrooms, 70 percent of American teenagers do. At least one third of the nation’s teenagers have a computer with internet access in their bedroom.

What struck me here was that most homes have four TVs and seventy percent of teens have TVs in their bedrooms. FOUR TVs! Really? When you consider the average number of kids a typical American family has that works out to roughly one TV per family member. That means each member of the family can park in front of the TV in the evening and interact very little with the rest of the family. This should really give parents pause. Parents need to raise up spiritually and doctrinally sound kids. How can this happen if each member of the family is sitting in front of a TV screen for most of the time they are at home? I’m not saying if you have more than one TV you are somehow abdicating your role as parent, but are you making it much harder than it needs to be? Is the content on TV really that good that you want your child having their own set?

Basically this research just reinforces the importance of kids getting face time with their parents instead of with the tube. I’ll be the first to say that I have no problems with TV, computers, or video games. I love a good film or TV series. I love building and using a computer. Video games are a fun hobby and show increasing potential as an art form. That said, these things absolutely have to be done in moderation and with wisdom. I don’t think we need to toss out our TVs, but we likely don’t need as many and we definitely need to make sure that we are the ones raising our kids and not the ideologies on the screen that often fly in the face of Scripture.

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