Should there be rules and parameters of how children should consume technology?

For this week’s reading in my Psychology of Children’s TV class, I had a really interesting time reading the Common Sense Consensus: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight (2013) because it provided a comprehensive list of data on how media was integrated in the daily lives of young children from birth to 8 years old. I was curious to see if there was an updated 2017 report, and found that there was one published recently. I recommend checking the updated report if you get a chance, as it also provides comparative data from 2011 and 2013. Link:

After reading the Common Sense Consensus 2017 report, the three most important points to take away for me was that 1) children view and engage in media at a young age and for a significant amount of time in their day to day lives 2) television is still the most watched form of media, but how children watch television is now drastically different than 2 years ago and 3) parents with lower income and less education background are least aware of American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for their child’s media use. According to the report, children ages 0-8 are spending on average 2 hours and 19 minutes viewing and/or interacting with their devices, which can range from a television set, DVD/videotape, mobile device, computer, and video game device. What’s even more alarming for me to learn was that children under 2 years old are spending on average 42 minutes per day engaged with their devices. While the report did not reveal what kind of content was being projected on screen (i.e., educational, age-appropriate, violent, etc.), it would be interesting to learn about the parents’ level of awareness about the ramifications of exposing any form of media to young children, especially under 2 years of age. For example, according to Kirkorian et al., (2012), studies show that children under the 2 years of age actually benefit more from engaging in real life experiences rather than on screen because their brains are still developing and are unable to cognitively processing video in a meaningful way.

Throughout this course, I have often wondered if children are still watching syndicated television programs like how I did as a kid. For example, as a child, I would often go home and turn on PBS to watch Arthur every day after school. If I missed an episode, there was no way to watch it again. However, now there are all different sorts of ways to watch television shows can be pre-recorded on DVRs or streamed anytime during the day or night with subscription services like Hulu or Netflix. I suspect children are no longer as committed to watching programs in “real-time” because they can watch the television shows anytime they want, time-shifted or streamed on demand. The report confirmed my guess, revealing that 53% of children watch time-shifted TV instead of live TV viewing. I would be interested in reading about any studies done about the correlation of children’s level of retention when it comes to watching a show consistently at certain time of the day versus at a spontaneous, irregular time.

Lastly, AAP recommends children turning of all screen devices an hour before sleep to allow for more restfulness, as well as turning off TVs as background noise to improve focus and concentration. Parents can help with these recommendations by keeping their child’s devices away from the bed, perhaps by storing them at a different room. Maybe setting up a password so the child will need permission to turn on the devices can help prevent the child using them at night. However, according to the report, 24% of parents with a college degree know about these AAP recommendations whereas only 16% of parents with high school or less education know about them. How do can AAP and other media literacy organizations outreach to parents who come from less affluent socio-economic backgrounds about information regarding media exposure in relation to children’s emotional and cognitive development? Perhaps commercial channels and television networks can partner with AAP and issue public service announcements about these recommendations.


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