Thursday, January 21, 2010

Swimming in Screen Time

My passion is helping families learn how to manage, moderate and live with the deluge of media in our lives. I could not believe it yesterday when I looked on the front page of the Chicago Tribune and one of the cover stories was, "Children Swimming in Media.",0,4394294.story The stats were fascinating and extremely overwhelming to me. Take a look at the article. There is also another version in the New York Times cleverly titled, "If Your Kids are Awake They are Probably Online".

The Kaiser Foundation does a great job showing us the shocking data in words, graphs, charts and pictures. It looks like in 2004 children averaged about 6 hours 21 min. of screen time a day and the researcher thought that we the reached the peak. There is simply NO MORE TIME IN THE DAY. But alas somehow children between 8-18 have found another 1 hr. 17 minutes on average, bringing the number to a staggering 7hours38 minutes per day. The articles can give you all the statistical information, but what struck me from the article I read was that title "Children Swimming In Media".

When we are pregnant with our precious babies all we can think of is how can we keep them safe. Often we wake up in the night worrying about the outlet we forgot to plug, or the cabinet that is easy to crawl and open, or the toilet seat someone left up. We hire safety people to child proof our house. We spend hundreds of dollars buying equipment to safety proof our homes. We all become handymen installing devices throughout our homes. We sleep a little bit easier for awhile. Then the children start to crawl or walk and a whole new set of safety features need to be added. We worry about what our kids our eating and drinking. We possibly grow our own vegatables, buy food without pesticides, milk without growth hormones and the list continues. We take our toddler to the beach on a sunny day and we discover it is closed because there is too much bacteria in the water. We are outraged and learn what we can do to clean up our beaches, so our precious children can be safe. Yet, we allow our children to literally swim in media. They are swimming with monsters, wars, guns, strangers, porn. I could list a million more things. For the most part, they are in the deep end without a lifeguard.

The informative article about this 2009 study on media usage in children is simply that, very informative. What we now have to do is figure out how to manage screen times in our families. I know that this is a media age and kids have to learn how to navigate some of it, but as parents it is our duty, our pledge for safety that we must pay closer attention to the use of media in our homes. Tomorrow we will give some practical tips on managing the media in your homes.


  1. Reading this, I do now understand why the doctor recommended only 1 hour TV to my 2-year-old son last year.

    When I asked her, if she meant "per week?", she gave me a smile and we both agreed we got to the point right.

    Still, sad to see how some kids grow up :(

    Ann, thank you so much for the class today, pictures will be on the way this afternoon.


  2. Zilly-I also have been confused about Doctors being unwilling to help parents with their parenting. I always wanted more information then they were willing to give. I think doctors can be afraid to say something like "studies show that tv is not appropriate for young children". That might upset and drive parents away. As always, it is up to us to decide how we want to parent which includes being an informed parent and doing our own research.

  3. Amen! This post hits the nail on the head. I am a step parent and try to control the TV time for my step daughter who seems to watch alot of TV at her other home. Its tough changing what the child is used to.

    I am so thankful that when I was a kid growing up in rural Kentucky, we lived just far enough out side of town that our television only picked up a few channels. My siblings and I got very creative with extra time on our hands- fort building , mud pies, putting on productions for our parents and who ever else was nearby, and making things for each holiday.

    I'm glad to get these helpful tips with ways to apply the measures needed to be a responsible parent ...step parent for now. : )

  4. Thanks for your great comments. You even remind us of the wonderful, old fashioned activities we can still do. Remember even though you share time with your step daughter you can make the space at your home magical. We know two sets of rules and two households can be a challenge. Keep us posted.