The Washington Post

Infants and toddlers spending twice as much time with TV, DVDs as they are with books, new report says

Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Tab tablet, right, and Apple’s iPad tablet. (JO YONG-HAK/REUTERS)

According to the report:

• About 40 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds and more than half of 5- to 8-year-olds use smart phones, video iPods, iPads or similar devices.

• More than half of all zero to 8-year-olds have access to a new mobile device such as a smart phone, video iPod or iPad/tablet.

• More than a third of children this age have used one of these devices, including 10 percent of 0 to 1-year-olds, 39 percent of 2-to 4-year-olds, and more than half of 5-to 8-year-olds

• Infants and toddlers are spending twice as much time with screen media (TV and DVDs) as books.

Kids and media use has been the topic of the week, as parents have been debating the new American Academy of Pediatrics statement discouraging electronic media for the youngest children (and controversially suggesting that parents don’t watch television if young children are nearby) and also how technology does or does not benefit education.

The new evidence of technology’s reach suggests that maybe we’re focusing on the wrong questions. Especially when we witness behavior like this from a much-shared YouTube video of a baby “reading” a magazine the only way she knows how:

The AAP has acknowledged that 90 percent of parents of children under 2 years old already allow some screen time. And, today’s report suggests that most parents are permissive with electronic media for all age groups. Maybe it’s time to admit that the question is no longer if media should be allowed, but how much and what kind.

Last month, researchers identified behavioral differences between pre-schoolers who watched a frenetic cartoon with those who watched a calm one and found that only those who watched the more fast-paced show seemed to be adversely affected. The study was criticized by many who questioned its importance and pointed out that the fast-paced cartoon in question, SpongeBob Squarepants, is intended for an older audience.

But not all parents understand what’s age-appropriate. Since the “experts” tend to look down on all screen time, it’s hard to know which shows and apps are best.

It’s now pretty clear that screen time is part of our kids lives at every age. Since most of us can’t find the off button, maybe we need more guidance on how much media and what kind is best.

How much screen time is allowed in your house? What sorts of programs and games are allowed?


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