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When TV Becomes Kids' Nanny

Report: Parents Often Use TV to Help Manage Their Kids
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 24, 2006 -- Move over, Mary Poppins. There's a new nanny in many homes that comes with a remote control, not a magical umbrella.

A new report states that parents of babies, toddlers, and young kids "often turn to media as an important tool to help them manage their household and keep their kids entertained."

"Many parents find media a tremendous benefit in parentingparenting and can't imagine how they'd get through the day without it (especially TV, videos, and DVDs)," states the report, titled "The Media Family: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers, and their Parents."

The report comes from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health care issues. Data stems from a survey of more than 1,000 parents of kids aged 6 months to 6 years.

Parents reported the TV, video, DVD, computer, and video-game habits of their kids in that age range. The results paint a picture of America's littlest TV viewers.

How Much Screen Time?

The survey shows that in a typical day:

  • 75% of kids watch TV
  • 32% watch videos or DVDs
  • 16% use a computer
  • 11% play video games

All in all, 83% of parents said their babies or young kids used any "screen media' in a typical day. The same percentage said their kids read or were read to in a normal day.

Kids watch an average of 1 hour and 19 minutes of TV and a similar amount of time for videos/DVDs each day.

One in three kids has a TV in their bedroom, according to the survey. The No. 1 reason why parents say they let kids have a TV in their bedroom is to free up other TVs for themselves or other family members.

Older kids are more likely to watch more TV and to have a TV in their bedroom, the survey shows.

However, parents reported that their kids spend more time reading and listening to music than watching TV in a typical day.

TV Always On

Nearly a third of parents reported that TV is on, even if no one is watching it, "always" (13%) or "most of the time" (19%).

The report notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends "no screen time for babies under 2" and "no more than one to two hours per day of screen media for children 2 and older."

The Kaiser Family Foundation also held focus group sessions in four U.S. cities to talk about TV with parents of babies and young kids. In those focus groups, many parents said TV has positive benefits for their kids.

For instance, 38% said they thought watching TV "mostly helps" children's learning while 31% said it "mostly hurts" kids' learning. Twenty-two percent indicated that TV didn't make much difference in kids' learning.

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