Beyond Baby Einstein
Sunday, May 30th, 2010
The Role of Media in the Lives Young Children
The first in a 4 part series on Screen Time
Let me lay out my biases at the outset. I raised 5 children with no TV, but one video allowed on Saturday nights. Based on the research I will present to you, I wouldn’t change a thing!
Nothing but the Best
We all want to the best for our children, and secretly, many of us hope that our babies will turn into superstars. This is precisely why we are such easy prey for advertisers who claim either directly, by making specific claims about how a DVD will boost brain capacity, or indirectly, by labeling a DVD something like “Brainy Baby,” implying that a DVD will make your child a genius. As soon as we are alerted to a method for proactively boosting our child’s intelligence we feel irresponsible if we don’t rush to buy the toy or DVD, play the music, or join the class. Media in particular has undermined parents’ confidence in their own ability to foster child’s development. Let’s place this phenomenon is its proper historical context.
A Brief History of the Rise of TV
Television became readily available in 1950. At that time families maxed out at one TV per household and all content was family-friendly. By 1955 ¾ of U.S. household owned a TV set. Now a typical household has two to three TV sets, and there are more TV sets than toilets in developing countries
TV and screen time has taken over the lives of children. Fast forward to the 2000’s. American children spend more time with TV, computers and media than any other activity but sleep. Young children spend an average of 3-4 (up to 6) hours a day watching TV, which means that children under the age of two, who sleep 10-12 hours a day, spend 30-40% of their waking hours watching TV at home. That does not include non-parent supervised TV. Day care adds an additional 1.39 hours/day.
Is Screen Time Helpful, Harmful or Neutral?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended no TV for children birth through the age of two. Older children should watch no more than 1 or 2 hours/day. This advice is largely ignored. Why? because of the seductive nature of baby videos and DVDs.
Next week we will track the rise of TV marketed to the under two crowd and discuss the impact of TV on the development of language, intellectual skills and attention. The news is not good.
Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR/L