December 15, 2005

Kaiser Studies Kids 0-6: Media? They're Soaking In It.


The Kaiser Family Foundation has just released the a hugely important study, "Zero to Six: Electronic media in the lives of Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers." It's the first ever study of electronic media that looks at kids under the age of two, and the results are fascinating, disturbing, and obvious, all at the same time. You should definitely read it yourself. Meanwhile, here are some highlights:

  • 74% of kids under 2 have watched TV.
  • 60% watch some TV almost daily, 43% watch every day.
  • The average amount of time a kid 0-4 spends each day watching TV or video/DVD's is 1.75 hrs.
  • 26% of kids under 2 have a tv in their room.
  • Contrary to the forest of educational benefits claimed or implied by producers of electronics and media, there is NO known (i.e., verified or identified by research) benefit to kids under 4, much less under 2. The whole area is a giant research and consumer safety/impact black hole.

    Kaiser Foundation's Vicky Rideout told the NY Times, "If parents are thinking, 'I need a break, I'll put my 4-year-old in front of this nice harmless video,' that's one thing. But if parents are thinking, 'This is good for my 3-month-old, it will help her get ahead in the world,' that's another." Inadvertently left out of the study, apparently: the all-important "I need a break and a shower and to check my email, I'll put my 6-month-old in front of this nice harmless video" demographic.

    The NY Times article is worth a read, too, if only for its star, a mother of an 11-month-old named Jetta [niice.] who says things like "We own everything electronic that's educational - LeapFrog, Baby Einstein, everything," and "there's only one thing better than having a baby, and that's having a smart baby." A source like that is Christmas come early for a reporter.

    New Report on Educational Media for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers [, read the report in pdf]
    If her name's Jetta, the answer is obviously 'yes, and giftwrap it':
    See Baby Touch a Screen. but Does Baby Get It?


    Since "the baby" arrived, our TV watching has taken a nose dive. True, we don't plan to exposure our daughter to TV for several years, but the daily business of parenting left us recording most of our TV shows and not having time to catch up. Wait a minute, catch up for... TV? That was a reality check. So, we stopped recording and now only watch three seasonal shows and occasional late night TV. If we miss a particular episode, oh well. We're probably six months away from entirely cutting loose.

    The study was based on a telephone survey which means the numbers are suspect. Other studies have shown that the numbers you get from people self-reporting their responses (versus observation by an objective party) are usually off. I wouldn't be surprised if numbers from an observation-based study showed that television watching was much higher and reading/playing outside were much lower.

    [exactly what I was thinking. I readily admit to letting the kid eat Pop-Tarts, but I'd still under-report how often if some researcher called me on it. Even so, I'm shocked that 36% of households SAY they leave the TV on all day long. -ed.]

    I don't think TV is making my kids smarter (I'm in the "I want an uninterrupted shower and cup of coffee" camp), but my kids *do* learn things from shows like Blues Clues, Dora, and Sesame Street that I'm proud that they know, for example, counting in English and Spanish.

    What I want to know is, where can I get a kid that's docile enough to sit in front of a TV for more than 2 seconds? My kid will pause for a few seconds at a time and dance to the Wiggles, but that's about it. I wish he would watch a bit of Sesame Street!

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