Credit: Scary Mommy
Once upon a time, technological toys and even the internet didn’t exist. To remedy boredom, children assisted with household tasks and in their free time, played outdoors. As kids, their imaginations ran wild; but because they weren’t being fed media — but rather were inventing fantastical scenarios in their mind, they could spend hours playing with nothing more than sticks, rocks, and mud.
In today’s world, scenarios such as this one are rarely witnessed — at least, in first-world nations. And, a new report reveals why. After surveying 1,454 parents, Common Sense Media determined that children under the age of nine in the United States spend more than two hours a day with screens. As TreeHugger points out, this is a lot, but it hasn’t actually changed much since 2011 when the first survey was conducted.
The total amount of time kids spend on screens hasn’t increased much in six years, but the mediums commonly used have. TV, DVDs, and play on the computer used to dominate kid’s time. Now, the majority of children use smartphones and tablets. This is important to consider, as 98 percent of kids in the US live in a house with some kind of mobile device — an increase from 75 percent in 2013 and 52 percent in 2011. Furthermore, 42 percent of children now have their own tablets.
Says the report, “Children from lower-income homes spend an average of 1:39 more with screen media each day than those from higher-income homes.” This could possibly be a repercussion of a family’s inability to afford childcare, as well as the likelihood low-income families have not been informed (according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ media guidelines) that children under 18 months should have NO screen time. The guidelines also mandate that children aged 18 months to 5 years should have just one hour of media day.
The report also determined that Hispanic/Latino families express the most concern about violence, sexual content, advertising/materialism and gender stereotypes in media. The report says, “For example, 54 percent of Hispanic/Latino parents are ‘very’ concerned about violence in media, compared to 38 percent of African-American parents and 28 percent of whites.” Reportedly, African-American families are more likely to perceive media exposure as “beneficial to kids.” In contrast, Hispanic/Latino parents “strongly” agree that the less time a kid watches media, the better off he/she will be.
Let’s not forget the fact that for some families, television acts as a virtual babysitter. Albeit convenient for the parents, the long exposure time to media can be detrimental long-term. In fact, some have equated this hard-to-break habit with negligence and child abuse.
All in all, the number of hours spent using media for children under the age of nine hasn’t changed much in six years. However, two hours of screen time per day still isn’t acceptable. The more television a child watches, the more he/she is exposed to risky content deemed inappropriate for their age. Media also prevents kids from doing more important things, such as reading a book, playing outside, learning a new hobby, doing chores, or figuring out how to entertain themselves.
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