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Scary stats: Kids spend more time with TV than with preschool

Submitted by on Tuesday, 9 November 2010 One Comment

I don’t believe much in child-rearing absolutes, except that I absolutely banned Big Guy from watching TV before he was 2.

I am absolutely certain that ban was ignored. Though the baby sitter repeatedly denied it, friends of hers used to gush about “how cute Big Guy looked, sitting in his little bouncy chair watching TV.”¬† That’s one reason I changed baby sitters.

I’m not certain what to believe about children and television, except I’ll take the American Academy of Pediatrician’s word on it that two hours a day is enough for children older than 2. I’m not aware of any research that says excessive amounts is healthful, and some researchers believe is a link between excessive commercial¬† TV and childhood obesity.

I do know that this scares me, though. According to Nielsen, children ages 2 to 5 watch an average of 32 hours of television a week. That means they’re spending more time with the tube than they are in preschool, one expert says.

Anyone still wondering where to start with education reform?

Not that children have to go to preschool to get good academic starts. It just happens that mine did – Big Guy for three years, Boots for two – but I know plenty of others who doing just great without it.

Not that all children’s television is a vast wasteland. Some of it is good, and even Boots is obsessed these days with Leap Frog videos originally purchased for Big Guy. “I have to keep watching,” he says. “I have to learn to spell words better.”

But does the occasional Mandarin phrase learned from Kai-Lan or the smattering of Spanish picked up from Diego or Dora create sound fundamentals? Only if you believe that Baby Einstein really does create child geniuses.

It’s going to get worse as, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, children’s TV giants Disney and Nickelodeon wage a death match for young hearts, minds and eyeballs. Both are looking at programming that’s “less academic and more whimsical.” The emphasis will be more on social skills.

That’s never particularly worked around here. The guys could mouth “caring is sharing” and “What’s gonna work! Team work!” from now until next Feb. 30, but the only thing that’s ever taught them to solve conflict is practice at doing exactly that.

None of this should even matter. Disney and Viacom are private companies with a goal of making money – I think everyone is clear on that.

But it’s also clear that when preschoolers are watching 32 hours of television a week, it does indeed matter.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Sandra Foyt said:

    Scary numbers, indeed. I can’t even imagine kids that age sitting for so long. I’m guessing these numbers reflect households that keep the TV on continuously, regardless of whether or not the children are actually watching the programs. Still, keeping the TV on that much can’t be a good thing.