When I was pregnant with Moose, I was working as a buyer. Being pregnant was a great conversation starter when dealing with new vendors. One of my coworkers, who was also pregnant, was the queen of making small talk. At every appointment, she would ask two things – Which are easier – boys or girls? and What are some words of wisdom you wish someone had shared with you?
The answers were almost always the same – boys are easier (typically no fuss, although they all admitted girls were more fun and funny with their clothes and dramatics) and the words of wisdom always broke down to two topics – never start the kids on junk food and don’t ever get them started on TV.
I will save the junk food topic for another day. Today, I wanted to share some compiled statistics about TV and kids.
- Approximate number of studies examining TV’s effects on children: 4,000
- Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5
- Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
- Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
- Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children’s TV watching: 73
- Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54
- Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
- Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500
Let me do the quick math for you – the average child is watching 28 hours of TV per week, over 60 days of TV per year!! It sounds ridiculous, but that is 4 hours a day. That’s a movie plus a couple of their favorite shows, and maybe a DVD during car rides. And I honestly don’t know if that counts gaming or other techie tools.
During my week at the Institutes, I asked some of the parents whose kids attended the on-campus school what their kids’ TV habits were like. Most of the moms raved about Baby Einstein, which I found interesting given the recent rebates. Another mom, who didn’t start doing the program until her kids were 3 1/2 and 5, said 2 years later they don’t watch near the amount of TV as they did before, and the programs they choose to watch are usually on Discovery Channel or History Channel – given the amount of knowledge they have, “kids” shows just aren’t that interesting anymore. She said they do reserve Friday nights as movie nights, where they take turns picking the movies.
Moose doesn’t really watch TV. We have a general rule that we don’t watch TV while he is awake. Sometimes, he watches Mater videos on the computer (but he is finished in 15 minutes). Since he doesn’t nap, I sometimes pop in the Cars movie or some Mickey Mouse so I can take a break. But I’ve noticed after several days of consistent TV watching, he gets whiny and aggressive. That is when I cut the TV off completely and his attitude always improves within a day.
I realize I sound like some kind of a TV nazi (just like some people think I am a sugar nazi), but I am far from it. Prior to Moose, I was a major TV junkie. I still am – my DVR is jam-packed, and luckily, several of my shows are On Demand. I don’t offer TV to Moose because I know how easy it is to get addicted to it! And when he is watching, and his little eyes start to glaze over, it makes me sad to think I am wasting his precious time when he would rather be playing with me or learning something.
I am not judging any family who chooses TV as the primary entertainment for their kids. I’m really putting this out there as a Thank You to the people who gave me their words of wisdom years ago. So TV or not TV? In this house, there is no question!!