Kids and Screen Time: How Do Yours Compare?

Last week the American Academy of Pediatrics released its findings from a “cross-sectional study of 350 children aged 6 months to 4 years seen October to November 2014 at a pediatric clinic in an urban, low-income, minority community.”

Some of its numbers may shock you–not only as a parent whose kids may fit this mold (family tax bracket notwithstanding), but as your mind tries to locate all this high tech gear in a low-income home:

  • “Most households had television (97%), tablets (83%), and smartphones (77%).”
  • Three-fourths of 4-year-olds had their own mobile device. Half had their own television.
  • “Almost all children (96.6%) used mobile devices, and most started using before age 1.”
  • “Parents gave children devices when doing house chores (70%), to keep them calm (65%), and at bedtime (29%).”

That’s a lot of screen time–or at least a lot of screens. Is this a problem? According to experts speaking to The New York Times, answers range from We Don’t Know, to Probably, to All I Know Is…:

We Don’t Know: Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, said many studies “ring the alarm bell without any content on why we should be alarmed,” and that scientists must commit to researching effects of media usage (as opposed to just frequency).

Probably: Another expert agreed that although we can’t yet know the effects of early-age screen time, it could prove a “huge” problem. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychology professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, said that “if children are sitting by themselves glued to digital candy, we simply don’t know what the consequences are for their early social development.”

All I Know Is…: A third expert was more concerned about the lack of parental supervision than about young children’s use of mobile devices. “It can’t be overstated: Children need laps more than apps,” said University of Washington professor Dimitri A. Christakis.

Of course, it hardly takes a scientist to identify your child’s (and your own) habits, or trace your child’s behavior back to some likely causes.

What are the screen time realities in your home? Do they–or could they–threaten, or enhance, your child’s development? (If you read this while your kid was watching a screen, you have to comment.)