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TV still dominates screen time for young kids

A new study on the media habits of young children is already garnering the usual headlines about toddlers and smartphones and how much time kids are spending with video games, iPads and other digital devices. But the real story is not how young children are drawn to the new technologies, but rather how much time they still spend with an old media device, namely the television.

The survey, which was carried out by Knowledge Networks for media watchdog  group Common Sense Media, asked over 1,300 parents of 0- to 8-year-olds how much time their kids spent with various forms of media and what impact, if any, the newer mobile platforms are having on media consumption among the very young.

Although use of digital media devices is commonplace, it’s the TV that continues to dominate, accounting for fully 74 percent of the total screen time among this age group. During a typical day, 0- to 8-year-olds will watch 1 hour and 44 minutes of TV and videos, compared to just 29 minutes spent reading or being read to, another 29 minutes listening to music, and a total of 31 minutes with other forms of media.

Perhaps more disturbing, given the recent guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), is the amount of time spent watching TV by babies and toddlers. On a typical day, 47 percent of children ages 0 through 1 will watch TV or DVDs, and those who do watch spend an average of almost two hours (1:54) doing so. That compares to an average of just 23 minutes a day reading or being read to.

And TV watching isn’t just confined to the living room or playroom. Thirty percent of 0- to 1-year-olds have a TV in their bedrooms, a figure which rises to 47 percent for 5- to 8-year-olds. Among the 79 percent of 5- to 8-year-olds who have homework, 21 percent “usually” or “sometimes” have the TV on while they do it.

The study also revealed that while TV ownership is almost universal, there is a substantial “digital divide” when it comes to access to computers and newer mobile devices. While nearly three out of four (72 percent) of 0- to 8-year-olds have a computer at home, the numbers vary from 48 percent among those from low income families (less than $30,000 a year) to 91 percent among higher-incomes families (more than $75,000 a year).

Although the survey looked at media use among both boys and girls, the only substantial difference was in the use of console video games. Boys are more likely than girls to have played a console video game (56 percent to 46 percent), and are more likely to play video games every day (14 percent vs. 5 percent). Boys average 16 minutes a day playing console games compared to an average of 4 minutes a day for girls.

But everything pales in comparison to the television. The conclusion for parents of young children is clear: If you want to cut down on the amount of screen time, turn off the TV!

Does the TV still dominate screen time in your household? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

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