Yesterday I saw an 18 month old little girl in my office who had injured her foot when she climbed up on her dresser and pulled her TV set down. Her Mom wasn’t sure if it was the TV or cable box that hit her foot but one of them had and she was limping. She was a lucky girl as she just had a sore foot and not the much more serious injury she could easily have had.
Other than the obvious safety concerns (which I did address with the Mom but will ignore here) the thing that struck me about this was that an 18 month old had a TV and cable box in her room. According to a 2003 Kaiser Family Foundation study 36% of kids 3-6 years old have a TV in their bedroom. In kids 8-18 years old that percentage increases to 71%.
Both these studies are chock full of other interesting statistics:
*Two-thirds of zero- to six-year-old (65%) live in a home where the TV is on at least half the time or more, even if no one is watching, and one-third (36%) live in “heavy” TV households, where the television is left on “always” or “most of the time.”
* 99% of kids zero to six have a TV in their home and 50% have 3 or more TVs, 78% have cable or satellite TV and 63% of kids in this age group watch TV every single day.
*In the 8-18 yr age range kids watched an average of 4 1/2 hrs of TV a day. They read books for an average of 1/2 hr a day.
*87% of 8-18 yr olds have a video game console in their home and 50% have one in their bedroom. 36% have a computer with Internet access in their bedroom.
*31% of 8-10 yr olds have a cell phone.
I’m not sure I have any hugely insightful comments on these statistics, just that I find them interesting and somewhat disturbing. One insight I did have after reading these articles was that we are even more counter-cultural in our use of media and technology than I had realized previously.
On the subject of TV and video games I can be boringly predictable. If I’m not careful it’s easy for me to feel somewhat holier than thou about the choices we’ve made. But the truth is much more complicated than that. The truth is that like most parents in today’s world we are figuring out where we stand on these issues as we go.
The reality is that we might not have a TV or cable but our kids watch a lot of videos. Some days too many. We may not have a video game console but our kids play plenty of games on Lego.com. We watch movies frequently. I watch some TV shows on hulu.com or Netflix. I struggle with spending more time than I should online. Both H. and I would enjoy having an Ipad or some kind of smart phone but we don’t really want to spend the money.
As our kids get older we may make different choices. We’ll have to navigate rules for Internet time and cell phones and Facebook and things we can’t even imagine yet. I’m learning as we go that I should never say never when it comes to parenting decisions.
However, Ruth isn’t getting a TV in her bedroom any time soon.