Parents, it's time to get serious and take charge of our children's gadget use. Based on findings from a recently released survey report, kids are developing bad, and even harmful, screen time habits. Common Sense, a non-profit organization that promotes healthy and safe technology and media use in children, surveyed more than 1,400 U.S. parents with kids 0 to 8 years old in low- and high-income households. Titled “The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight 2017,” the report highlights the media consumption habits of children today and how it has changed over the past few years.
Though the survey was from a relatively small sample and conducted in the U.S., the findings resonate in our Pinoy homes. Read on and see what we mean:
1. Children spend almost an hour on mobile phones each day Many parents can attest to how difficult it is to get kids off of their gadgets. The amount of time 0- to 8-year-olds spend on mobile devices each day has tripled. Parents in the survey say their young children spent five minutes on mobile devices in 2011, which rose to 15 minutes a day in 2013, and 48 minutes a day in 2017.
“Mobile device use is more individual, immersive, and on-demand, and it influences interpersonal dynamics differently and can be harder to break yourself (or your child) away from. For these reasons, parents describe it as more difficult to mediate and manage,” said Dr. Jenny Radesky, author of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) latest policy statement on screen time in children.
2. Children are taking their devices to bed Almost half (49%) of kids eight and below use screen media in the hour before bedtime (playing games, watching TV, or using a smartphone), and it's one we consider the most harmful because it affects the quality of your child's sleep. Studies have shown disrupted or lack of sleep can cause health problems. (Forty-two percent of homes also have the TV turned on always or most of the time even when nobody’s watching.)
AAP has strongly advised against screen use before bedtime. Why? For one, gadget use before bed is a bad habit to break. “In my experience and that of my sleep specialist colleagues, changing bedtime media habits is exceedingly tough. All the motivational interviewing and behavioral charts in the world can’t change some families’ use of tech at night,” said Michael H. Levine, a founding executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
3. A lot more kids own gadgets Forty-two percent of children ages 0 to 8 own a tablet, up from just 1% in 2011. And, once kids have their device, it may be harder to monitor gadget use. According to Dr. Radesky, heavy and inappropriate media use affects health, emotional wellness, and productivity causing problems with sleep and executive functioning and may put strains on relationships.
4. Tots are spending more time on screens than books Children below 2 years old spend an average of 42 minutes a day using screen media—like watching shows on TV or a device. The same age group spends an average of 21 minutes a day reading or being read to by mom or dad.
Screen time guidelines from the AAP state that children between 18 to 24 months old can be allowed screens provided that it’s high-quality programming, like educational children's shows. However, the recommendations also say that children below 18 months should avoid screens altogether. The AAP also encourages parents to read to their kids, starting from infancy.
5. Parents are concerned about violence, sexual content, and advertising in media Do you follow age ratings (i.e., G, PG, PG-13) when it comes to the movies and shows your child is allowed to watch? A lot of parents are concerned that the media their child is consuming contains inappropriate or harmful material.
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78% are concerned about violent content
77% are concerned about sexual content
70% are concerned about their child's exposure to materialism and advertising in media
Whenever you're unsure whether you should allow your child to watch a particular film or TV show, check Common Sense Media. You'll find everything you need to know including if the film has any violence, bad language or scenes with alcohol and drinking.