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Katherine Lee

Are Electronic Devices Taking Over Our Kids' Lives?

By January 25, 2010

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Kids are spending an average of more than 7 1/2 hours a day using electronic media, which includes TV, the Internet, video games, and mobile devices, according to a new report by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

To put it another way, that means that kids are plugged into some kind of electronic device for more than 53 hours a week, which is more time than most grown-ups spend at work, say study researchers. Yikes. And when multitasking such as watching TV while surfing on the Internet is taken into account, the number jumps to 10 hours and 45 minutes. Double yikes.

The survey of 8 to 18-year-olds also found that kids who are heavy media users tend to have lower grades than kids who are light users. And fewer than half of the kids (46 percent) reported that they have rules about what TV shows they can watch. Only 30 percent of kids had parents who set rules about which video games they can play and only 26 percent had rules about what music they could listen to.

This is particularly a shame because when parents set any kind of media rules, kids were found to spend a lot less time on them. Kids whose parents set media rules spent almost three hours less on electronic devices than kids in homes with no media rules.

All this electronic use is bound to increase as grade-schoolers get older and start to hit their tween years. What can parents of young children do now to make sure we don't raise a generation of kids who are plugged in to devices and tuned out to people?

For starters, we can watch our own use of media. I know I've had to remind myself more than a few times to walk away from the computer or cell phone and talk to my child face to face, especially when it's "family time" -- the hours just before and after dinnertime when we are wrapping up homework and getting ready for dinner or for bed.

And we can turn off the TV when we're not watching a specific program, or turn off the radio for some quiet reading time. In our house, we stopped subscribing to cable years ago, and only use the TV for Wii games or to watch DVDs. I can't tell you how much it's made a difference not having commercials and "breaking news" constantly invade our space. (Instead, we get our news on the Internet, from newspapers and magazines, and get kids' news magazines such as "Time for Kids.")

What steps have you taken in your home to limit electronic media? How does your kids' media use compare to the Kaiser survey numbers?

January 25, 2010 at 11:11 pm
(1) nishant says:

electronic devices are taking control of lives and it is not true only for lids but for all of us. they definitely help us in interacting and connecting to someone sitting in third world but clearly cuts us off from the person leaving next door.

January 26, 2010 at 11:21 am
(2) s.g. says:

The use of media devices (apart from tv, add I-touch, I-pod, internet, phones) has significantly increased in our family. It is challenging to set boundaries, because we do enjoy the advantages of its use. Texting while driving is something we see other people do in their cars, and we have not yet been tempted. I talk about the dangers with our children repeatedly, and hope by the time they drive, they will not be tempted to do so either. The kids’ phones have to be on the kitchen counter by night time, after which we discovered over time, they don’t use them anymore. They cannot use their phones when we are on family outings (restaurants, fun things we do together), yet they do use them for texting in the car on the way to, or going back, which is ok. Computers are not allowed in the bedrooms when we are sleeping, and we disconnect internet connection (router shuts down) after we go to bed, so nobody is tempted to use the internet in the middle of the night (it happened and we decided this is a good solution). The kids don’t have tv’s in their bedrooms. We try to make homework before dinner, so after dinner we can all relax and watch our favorite shows or we watch a movie with our children. Our oldest sometimes uses her computer while watching tv at night, and we agreed 9PM is a good time to stop, yet, she does need a reminder… We enjoy our media devises, but we try to be watchful of overuse.

February 5, 2010 at 11:54 pm
(3) Gwynn says:

In our household we use a points for privileges system in which my son can trade points he earns for an hour each of TV, video games, computer or videos. If we did not do this he would be watching TV all the time! My son is a “Tween”. Sometimes school assignments require computer time which is not for points.

June 1, 2010 at 3:13 am
(4) Buy Kindle says:

electronic devices are taking control of lives for all not true only for kids only. they definitely help us in interacting and connecting to someone sitting in third world but cuts from neighbors ….kids doesn’t wanna play field game and stay at home to play games on Psp And Xbox

July 3, 2010 at 9:56 am
(5) Electronic World says:

electronic devices are taking control not only kids lives but also many human being. TV some how helps us in interacting and connecting with our dearest once residing any prat of the world. Yes for sure kids are very much interested in playing xbox games rather than playing outdoor games.

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