Television and Children

By Odland, Jerry | Childhood Education, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Television and Children


Odland, Jerry, Childhood Education


Last fall, an article that made the front page of the Washington Post (October 29, 2003) caught my attention. It focused on a recent Kaiser Foundation study, "Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers," that reported young children are spending more time watching television, playing video games, or interacting with a computer screen than they do exploring books. The national survey of more than 1,000 parents found that one in four children under the age of 2 has a television in his/her bedroom and 43 percent watch television on a daily basis. It also was reported that children age 6 or younger spend about the same amount of time each day (about two hours) using a computer, watching television, or playing video games as they do playing outdoors--and considerably more time than they spend reading or being read to each day (34 minutes). These survey results show that children under the age of 6 are far more "media savvy" than previously thought. Researchers are uncertain what the long-term implications will be of this media exposure; however, many studies have demonstrated that school performance improves when television viewing is limited.

While reading the Post article, I was reminded of ACEI's publication Children and TV: Television's Impact on the Child, which was published in 1967. It features a authors that address the impact that television then a relatively new form of entertainment, was having on children's learning and the use of their time. Sylvia Sunderlin, editor for both Children and TV: Television's Impact on the Child and Children and TV II: Mediating the Medium (1982), mentions efforts being pursued by various civic and parent organizations at the time to promote "less violence and terror on the TV screen, better overall quality in children's programs, and increased parental involvement in the child's TV viewing." ACEI was active in this early movement and has since featured numerous articles in Childhood Education that address children and electronic media, including "Television Violence and Children," "Family Television Viewing--How To Gain Control," "Television in the Lives of Children and Their Families," "Making TV Environmentally Sale for Children," "Children and TV Commercials," "We Interrupt This Program To Show You a Bombing: Children and Schools Respond to Televised War," "The Electrified Classroom: Using Technology in the Middle Grades," and "Children's Computers. …

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