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Screen Time Higher Than Ever: Too Much Screen Time on Studies about Screen Time?

Posted Oct 26 2011 12:19pm
Future Mark Zuckerberg or Deviant? Photo,Common Sense Media
Key Finding 1: Young Children Use Digital Media Frequently
Thank you  Common Sense Media for this tantalizing finding from your new study  Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America.   I will be sure to take into account how much screen time I've used to read and comment on it. 

Sure, someone needed to establish a baseline measure of children's screen time for psychologists and anthropologists to cite over and over in the coming decades if not millenia.  You know, in order to argue how gloriously screen-free we were back in the year 2011 when humans still had prehensile fingers to hold pencils and tongues to speak.

Oh the study looks good with it's large font and professional graphics including photos that surely would spruce up the scholarly journals (hint, hint).  Not sure what we're suppose to take away from the cute baby playing on mom's iPhone but surely readers should sigh and choke up at the youngsters engrossed in books during the photo shoot.


Of course this being an investigation of screen time the report slices and dices the data on how much and on what devices kiddies get their screen fixes (won't bore you with the details that you can read on  Common Sense Media  or a New York Times article ) but must in keeping with the grave warnings of educators and librarians lament the lost art of reading books as in the print-on-paper, broken-spine musty dusty kind. 

Now I'm a huge reader myself who's raised a complete bookworm and who must have repaved my parking spot in the public library lot several times over with late fees but I'm not completely convinced that the rise of iPads, Nintendo DSs and other screens including the tv has significantly, meaningfully reduced reading time.  I'm fighting the digital battle at my house every day, but honestly stats like this don't mean much to me
In a typical day, 47% of babies and toddlers ages 0 through 1 watch TV or DVDs, and those who do watch spend an average of nearly two hours (1:54) doing so. This is an average of :53 among all children in this age group, compared to an average of :23 a day reading or being read to. 

Um, infants watching television. Seriously? My children at one month could barely hold their heads up  much less focus on the screen ten feet away. 

Anyhow the subtitle on this data says Children under 2 spend twice as much time watching TV and videos as they do reading books.  But stats appear only for those under 1, that's annoying.  Why? I like my data but also I'm finding it difficult to believe babies actually "watch" tv especially for more than a few minutes.  An hour of any one activity with an infant can be grueling.  Including reading. It's good to know how much babies sit in front of the screen but I'm not sure about the actual watching behavior.  They may sit there for a half an hour but really what are they doing? I'm guessing there's also an older sibling or two to watch.  They tend to be much more interesting than a tv.   

In any event kids watch lots of tv in plenty of studies and this one is no exception (1 hour and 44 minutes a day).  This is hardly earth-shattering.  In fact, the only real nugget here is the well-named new phenomenon - App Gap - a nod to the disparity in App downloads between the kiddie haves and have-nots. 

Speaking of the Digital Divide, the New York Times chose to use a graphic showing nearly half of kids have tvs in their bedrooms (42% to be exact).  Common Sense Media focused on the Bedroom Television too that incidentally pops up most frequently in low income homes.   

Ah, the Bedroom DS? Bedroom iPads, Bedroom iPod Touches? 

No one bothered to inquire into their exact whereabouts.  HHhmmm.

Well that concludes our screen time together.  When you track your screen time for the day let me know if you've logged this portion under Educational, Recreational or I-Couldn't-Possibly-Choose.  Feel free to count it towards your daily reading and for you multi-taskers who are on the treadmill right now, exercise.
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