Digital kids

Just about every child in the U.S. under the age of 8 lives in a home with a smartphone, says a new study from Common Sense Media, and a stunning 42% of these little ones now have their own tablet, up from just 1% in 2011, conclusively demonstrating that kids under 8 are increasingly digital.

Other key findings from the report, which focused exclusively on media use by kids ages 0 – 8:

  • Time spent on mobile devices tripled from 5 minutes per day in 2011 to 48 minutes per day in 2017
  • Overall, children spent more than 2 hours per day on screen media
  • Despite recommendations from pediatricians, nearly half of all kids watch some screen media before bed (and 42% report TVs almost always on in the background)
  • Children from poorer and/or less educated homes spend nearly twice as much time on screen media
  • Hispanic/Latino families express the most concern about their children’s media use, whites express the least

We’re using [digital screens] for our benefit, not for the child’s benefit.

These results should not surprise anyone, says Douglas Gentile, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, given their ubiquity in modern life. What should be of concern, adds Gentile, is how much more difficult it is for parents to monitor what their children are consuming through those screens.

Another concern: while parents increasingly are using tablets and smartphones to keep kids distracted, says Gentile, in doing so they may be “building a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster, because we’re using that power for our benefit, not for the child’s benefit.”

All of which is why we, at Kidzu, believe strongly in the power of extracurricular activities – including, in this case in particular, camps – to keep children’s minds and bodies busy with something other than electronic devices.

One interesting revelation from the report: when given a choice between digital screens and old-fashioned paper books, the majority of kids chose the latter. In fact, of the 29 minutes kids spent reading each day, only 3 minutes was spent reading on a digital device.

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