The Kaiser Family Foundation recently revealed the results of a remarkable study that indicated children aged zero to six spend an average of two hours a day using electronic media—the same amount of time they average playing outside. The shocking results are that two hours a day is actually more than three times the amount (thirty-nine minutes) they spend reading or being read to, according to the study.
I’ve cautioned parents before to keep the television and computer out in a “public” place at home, but this study also revealed that one out of four babies under two years old have TVs in their bedrooms.
Needless to say, the results of that study stand in dramatic contrast to the longtime recommendations of America’s pediatricians. For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents should not allow their kids to watch TV at all before the age of two. Early childhood is a remarkably tactile time when children should be exploring the real world, not locked in front of a TV set.
I can tell you that once you put a TV in a kid’s bedroom, it will be tough to get it out. Other studies indicate that older kids with TVs in their bedrooms watch almost an hour a day more than kids without TVs. They also have a 31 percent greater risk of becoming overweight or obese, and they don’t do as well in school as other children.
Not only does this information show the disconnect between America’s parents and their children, but it also shows just how much children are being indoctrinated with media from the start of their development. Trust me, most children will become addicted to television early enough, so they don’t need to start that young. The “branding” of children is a priority for a number of our largest and most powerful corporations, because they know the earlier they can get kids to buy their product, the more loyal those kids will be for the rest of their lives. So don’t think watching TV doesn’t affect behavior. Big business is spending billions of dollars a year on advertising targeted specifically at children because they know it works.
I even urge great caution when it comes to so-called “educational videos.” Today, the market is being flooded with “early development videos” and other programming supposedly created to help children learn. These videos are often accompanied by huge marketing campaigns designed to convince parents that a kid without early learning videos in the home is a kid falling behind. But the truth is, there is simply no research to back up that claim.
The bottom line? Don’t give in to the video babysitter. I understand how busy today’s parents can be, and after cleaning house, buying groceries, washing clothes and more, it’s tough to find the energy to keep the kids occupied with healthy alternatives. But giving them up to the TV set is a truly horrifying choice. The extra time and energy you give your kids during these early years will more than pay off in educational advancement, healthy living and a more positive outlook.
My wife, Kathleen, and I are friends with an actor couple here in Hollywood who both make their living from television. They are concerned about the negative impact TV viewing will have on their children as they grow, so they’ve decided that they won’t let their children even watch TV until after they’ve learned to read. They believe that reading skills and intellectual development are the most important skills for children.
Extreme? Perhaps. But considering the power of reading skills on life achievement, financial income and job possibilities, I can’t think of any TV show that would be worth trading for the future of our children.
Take it from me. Read to your kids and help them learn to read themselves. It will create a special connection for you and a brighter future for them.
Phil Cooke, PhD is a speaker, producer and media consultant to ministries and churches worldwide. Find out more at philcooke.com.
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here