Adults, children, fish, and crows all share an affinity for shiny things. While fish and crows are happy with the simple gleam of a metal object, humans often have a more sophisticated palette for visual objects. My friends are often doe eyed over the latest technological gizmos. Children, once enraptured by a jingling set of keys, now become enthralled by the flashy hypnotic screens of an iPhone or tablet. Is the increase in consumption of shiny digital media by our children a problem?
There is certainly little doubt that humans are growing more visual across the board. We are exposed to more and more visual stimulations online and in digital technology. Our screen options are a lot like our shirt size: small, medium, or large. However we choose to digest this media is really up to us, but unless you’re like a Geico commercial and live under a rock, you’re exposed to some form of digital media.
No matter what we think or how we feel about our media use, screen-time for children is on the rise. According to a recent study published by Common Sense Media 27% of the children between the ages of 0 and 8 spend their screen time on a mobile device, tablet, video iPod system, handheld gaming console, computers, and televisions.
Let’s break it down:
- Two-thirds (65%) of 0- to 8-year-olds watch TV at least once every day (ranging from 37% of 0-1 year- olds, to 73% of 2- to 4-year-olds and 72% of 5- to 8-year-olds).
- Forty-two percent also have a TV in their bedroom, and 39% live in a home where the TV is left on all (10%) or most (29%) of the time–whether anyone is watching it or not.
- Computer use is pervasive among very young children, with half (53%) of all 2- to 4-year- olds having ever used a computer, and nine out of ten (90%) 5- to 8-year-olds having done so
- Half (52%) of all children now have access to one of the newer mobile devices at home: either a smartphone (41%), a video iPod (21%), or an iPad or other tablet device (8%).
In a recent publication by the American Academy of Pediatrics media use for children under the age of two is discouraged. Overuse of media has been linked to childhood obesity, poor sleep habits, and attention issues in children over the age of two. Research for children between the ages of 18 and 24 use digital media as an educational tool is still inconclusive, but parents should be weary of marketing from companies for programs to children in this age range.
There is a growing conversation and dialogue occurring right now about the balance of digital media consumption and the potential negative impacts that may befall children and the educational benefits for them. Children need to be exposed to other learning experiences that incorporate play and reading.
It’s all about balance–letting kids explore while offering them options beyond the screen. Taking them outside to experience fresh air while allowing them to map their physical world as well as their visual world. We are busy, I get that. The TV can serve as a powerful babysitter, entertainment vehicle, and educational tool. But at the end of the day (or beginning) we must be able to power down and unplug and we can be the best example for our children by limiting our own media consumption.
Let’s ensure a healthy cognitive future for our children with a balanced media diet and enlivening this conversation about getting children away from their screens even for just a short time.
Now, let’s all go outside and play.