David Snyder

Screen time on the rise for kids

New data from ratings giant Nielsen show that kids are watching more and more TV. Its analysis shows viewing among 2- to 11-year-olds is at an eight-year high, with kids ages 2–5 spending a whopping 32 hours a week staring at a screen, and they hypothesize that older kids watch slightly less simply due to longer school hours. (In an only-from-Nielsen data point, younger kids were also less likely to fast-forward through commercials during DVR playback, presumably to the delight of advertisers and the chagrin of most others).

What's more, these numbers don't even factor in the time spent online. The total "screen time" is likely to be substantially higher with the Internet factored in.

The LA Times has reactions from a variety of sources. Vic Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics, states concern with the view that TV is "harmless entertainment," adding that "media are one of the most powerful teachers of children that we know of. When we in this society do a bad job of educating kids about sex and drugs, the media pick up the slack."

Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, adds that young kids who watch too much TV "don't develop the resources to generate their own amusement, so they become dependent on screens."

What does this mean for the whole child? There are clear implications across the board. Healthy kids need plenty of physical activity, which probably doesn't coincide with TV viewing. What's more, can kids who become "dependent on screens" engage as easily with the kind of challenging curriculum that requires critical thinking and hands-on projects?

What role can schools, parents, and communities play in creating a healthy balance between screens and other diversions for kids?

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