I suppose there is always something to worry about when it comes to “our (collective) children.” Now that we are officially in the 21st century, the Big Bad Media is worrisome. Is media hurting children developmentally? Is it replacing reading?
An article (2003) from the Kaiser Family Foundation addresses these concerns. The study focused on 0-6 year-olds and their media use. According to the many statistics that spatter the article, young children are spending a sizable amount of their time with media, whether it be videogames, computers, or TVs.
The overall tone of the article is surprise. The study asserts that children, on average, spend as much time with media as they do playing outdoors, and far more time with media than they do reading. “These are astonishing data. Today’s preschoolers are starting to use media much younger than we thought,” stated study co-author Ellen Wartella. According to article, maybe we should be a little worried about media.
Yet is media for young children wholly bad? Of course not. Nor, frankly, can it be entirely avoided. Whether it’s comfortable for us or not, digital media is here to stay. Short of keeping children in wooden cabins in the forest, exposure to media is unavoidable. So what can we do?
As the article states, quality is as great a consideration as quantity. Balance is important as well. The article notes that children of parents who set boundaries on media time spend an average of 1/2 hour less per day plugged in.
We can’t fully “protect” our children from digital media exposure. We may not even want to – we would like our children to grow up with many of the skills and understandings that come with media exposure. We don’t want to raise children more suited for the 1900s than 2000s. And is media harming our children developmentally? It can, of course, but so can many things. Blaming the Big Bad Media is hopeless; it’s stronger than we are.
But we can be choosy about the (Big? Bad? maybe not always) media exposure we do allow. Quality and quantity are negotiable.