Someone didn’t believe me this AM when I said my children (5 & 7) have never turned on the TV themselves. It’s true
— WendySueSwanson MD (@SeattleMamaDoc) December 5, 2013
I got in a heated discussion with a researcher last week. We were chatting about strategies to improve challenges with overweight and obesity. He mentioned it was media controls (automatic locks on devices) that would change children’s habits regrading screen time in the home — he just didn’t want to leave it up to parents anymore. As I understood his perspective, left to chance it’s unlikely parents will avoid screens when it comes at the cost of convenience. I mentioned to him that my young children watched very little television, that in fact, “They’d never turned the television on themselves.” He looked at me sideways, he called my bluff. I told him again they literally had zero access to TV or other screens on their own.
He didn’t believe me.
I’ve carried this conversation with the researcher with me since. Not only because of how it rubbed me the wrong way but how his presumptions are based in new realities. It was easier, even just 7 years ago, to rear our children screen-free. I mean, the iPhone didn’t exist when my 7 year-old was born. It’s far more difficult to moderate screen use now that the majority of parents have smart phones in their pockets, laptops in the kitchen, and tablets near the couch. Three quarters of young children now live in homes with mobile devices (like my children). Those of us who avoid or limit screens have created huge work-arounds in our world.
Earlier this year Common Sense Media published their Zero To Eight report detailing young children’s media use. The report is worth a glance as the stats are fairly mind-blowing. A snaphot shows us:
- 3/4 of young children live in homes with mobile devices, some 38% of infants and toddlers have now used a mobile device.
- 1/3 of children have a television in their bedroom (16% of infants have one) and the likelihood that one ends up there increases with age. For children between 5 and 8 years of age, nearly 1/2 (45%) have a TV where they sleep. Most noteworthy for me: the main reason parents report that a child has a TV in the bedroom is to, “Free up other TVs so family members can watch their own shows.”
- Over 1/3 of families say the television is on “most or all of the time” in their home.
- 63% of children have played a game on a smartphone or mobile device with 17% of parents reporting their children (0-8 years) use a mobile device every single day.
The stats go on and on and it can all feel a little reckless. I’m keenly aware that stats don’t really change behavior and I also really believe that if moderation is king guilt-free is queen. This post isn’t designed to inspire guilt. The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds us that there is no developmental benefit to screen time prior to age 2 . Sometimes learning what TV does to your child’s brain helps. I’m writing this because of 2 recent announcements: Read full post »