| The study reveals that kids aged six and under spend
an average of two hours a day using screen media (1:58), about the
same amount of time they spend playing outside (2:01), and well over
the amount they spend reading or being read to (39 minutes).
New interactive digital media have become an integral part of childrens'
lives. Nearly half (48 per cent) of children six and under have
used a computer (31 per cent of 0-3 year-olds and 70 per cent of
4-6 year-olds). Just under a third (30 per cent) have played video
games (14 per cent of 0-3 year olds and 50 per cent of 4-6 year
olds). Even the youngest children - those under two - are widely
exposed to electronic media. 43 per cent of those under two watch
TV every day, and 26 per cent have a TV in their bedroom (the American
Academy of Pediatrics - urges parents to avoid television for children
under two years old). In any given day, two-thirds (68 per cent)
of children under two will use a screen media, for an average of
just over two hours (2:05).
"Itís not just teenagers who are wired up and tuned in, its
babies in diapers as well," said Kaiser Family Foundationís
Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health vice president
and director Vicky Rideout who is also the lead author of the study.
"So much new media is being targeted at infants and toddlers,
itís critical that we learn more about the impact itís having on
child development," he added.
The study, Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants,
Toddlers and Preschoolers, was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation
and the Childrenís Digital Media Centers. It is the first publicly
released national study of media use among the very youngest children,
from six months to six years old.
"These are astonishing data. Today's preschoolers are starting
to use media much younger than we thought,"
said study co-author Ellen Wartella, Dean of the College of Communication
at the University of Texas. "Where previous generations were
introduced to media through print, this generation's pathway is
electronic. This is a trend we must follow," she adds.
The study also revealed that a third of all 0-6 year-olds (36 per
cent) have a TV in their bedroom, more than one in four (27 per
cent) have a VCR or DVD, one in ten have a video game player, and
seven per cent have a computer. Thirty percent of 0-3 year-olds
have a TV in their room, and 43 per cent of 4-6 year-olds do.
"When children have TVs and other media in their bedrooms,
it's more difficult for parents to monitor what they're doing,"
noted study co-author and Assistant Professor at the University
of Texas at Austin Elizabeth Vandewater. "The growing phenomenon
of media in the bedroom and its impact on child development is a
crucial area of future research."
Computers also take up a considerable amount of the kiddies' time.
In a typical day about one in four (27 per cent) 4-6 year-olds uses
a computer, and those who do spend an average of just over an hour
at the keyboard (1:04). More than a third (39 per cent) of 4-6 year-olds
use a computer several times a week or more; 37 per cent in this
age group can turn the computer on by themselves, and 40 per cent
can load a CD-ROM.
The study also revealed that many children are growing up in homes
where the TV is an ever-present companion: two-thirds (65 per cent)
live in homes where the TV is left on at least half the time or
more, even if no one is watching, and one-third (36 per cent) live
in homes where the TV is on always or most of the time (the latter
group are considered 'heavy' TV households.)
According to the study, children who have a TV in their bedroom
or who live in 'heavy' TV households spend significantly more time
watching than other children do, and less time reading or playing
outside. Those with a TV in their room spend an average of 22 minutes
more a day watching TV and videos than other children do. Those
living in 'heavy' TV households are more likely to watch every day
(77 per cent vs 56 per cent), and to watch for longer when they
do watch (an average of 34 minutes more a day). They are also less
likely to read every day (59 per cent vs 68 per cent), and spend
less time reading when they do read (six minutes less a day). In
fact, they are less likely than other children to be able to read
at all (34 per cent of children ages 4-6 from 'heavy' TV households
can read, compared to 56 per cent of other children that age).
"These findings definitely raise a red flag about the impact
of TV on childrenís reading," said Vicky Rideout of the Kaiser
Family Foundation. "Clearly this needs to be a top priority
for future research."
Parentís views on educational value of media. Parents of young
children appear to have a largely positive view about TV and computers.
They are significantly more likely to say TV 'mostly helps' childrenís
learning (43 per cent) than 'mostly hurts' it (27 per cent); the
overwhelming majority (72 per cnet) say computers 'mostly help'
childrenís learning. About half of parents consider educational
TV shows (58 per cent) and videos (49 per cent) 'very important'
to childrenís intellectual development. They are also far more likely
to say they have seen their children imitate positive behaviors
from TV like sharing or helping (78 per cent) than negative ones
like hitting or kicking (36 per cent).
However, a majority of parents (59 per cent) say their 4-6 year-old
boys imitate aggressive behavior from TV (vs 35 per cent for girls
the same age).
Vast majority of parents say they have rules about TV, including
90 per cent with rules about what their kids watch and 69 per cent
with rules about how much they can watch. The study indicates the
rules may have an effect: children with time-related rules spend
an average of almost a half-hour less per day watching TV than other
children do (1:00 vs.1:29).
"When it comes to the impact of media on children, quality
is as important as quantity," said study co-author Vandewater.
"It looks like parents are getting the message that content
matters," she added. "Parents should take heart, because
this study shows that sticking to your guns regarding your children's
media use does indeed make a difference."
The study also revealed that half (50 per cent) of all 4-6 year-olds
have played video games, and one in four (25 per cent) play several
times a week or more. Differences between boys and girls have already
begun to emerge at this young age: 56 per cent of boys have played
video games, compared to 36 per cent of girls; and in a typical
day, 24 per cent of boys will play, compared to eight per cent of
Despite the plethora of new media, reading continues to be a regular
part of young childrenís lives. In any given day, nearly eight in
ten (79 per cent) children six and under will read or be read to,
and those who do spend an average of 49 minutes reading (83 per
cent will use screen media, for an average of 2 hours 22 minutes),
the study revealed.
The results of the study were presented during a panel discussion
at the Barbara Jordan Conference Center, Kaiser Family Foundation
building on 28 October. The participants included pediatricians,
child development experts and top executives from Scholastic, Sesame
Workshop and Nickelodeon.
According to the official release, this report is based on the
results of a nationally representative, random digit dial telephone
survey of 1,065 parents of children ages six months to six years
old, conducted from April 11 to June 9, 2003.
The survey was designed and analysed by the Kaiser Family Foundation
and the Childrenís Digital Media Centers, in consultation with Princeton
Survey Research Associates (PSRA). The margin of error is ±3