My View: Where are kids getting information?

By Max Anderson

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Jan. 18 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that because educational television programs usually use content and context that doesn't make sense yet to children under 2, there is little, if any, educational value.

Associated Press

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My wife and I recently welcomed the arrival of our first two grandchildren. No, they weren't twins. In early 2012, our son and his wife had a little girl. Then, later in the year, our daughter and her husband also had a baby girl.

As a parent and grandparent, I am already aware of the many forces at work, intent on attempting to shape the thoughts and opinions of the little ones in my family. But what I have come to learn is that a clock is ticking as I guide them to independence and maturity.

For decades, psychologists have reported about the critical stages of development in children. As the research progressed, it became clear that formation of personality and the foundations for learning occurred much earlier than had originally been thought.

The debate has raged for decades, as it relates to how children develop, and whether heredity or environment has the greatest impact on the outcome. But stop and think about where your children and grandchildren are getting their information. Consider the following.

Eighty percent of children 6 and under read or are read to in an average day. But children spend an average of only 49 minutes with books in that same average day.

This is compared with 2 hours and 22 minutes or more in front of a television or computer screen. Smart phones are eating into the timeline even more.

In addition, a recent survey found that 90 percent of parents said their children under age 2 watch at least some form of electronic media. And the average amount of TV watched by children 2 and under was 1-2 hours a day.

Then the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made a "screen-free" recommendation for all children under age 2. The researchers wanted to study the benefits or harm in educational TV viewing for the same age group. This is some of what they found:

Because educational television programs usually use content and context that doesn't make sense yet to children under 2, there is little, if any, educational value.

Unstructured play proved to be far better than electronic media for encouraging brain development. Through unstructured play, children learn creativity, problem solving, reasoning and motor skills. Unstructured play also encouraged independence by teaching children to entertain themselves.

Little children learned best when they interacted with people and not a TV screen.

A television or radio, in the background, can also do damage to a child's development by distracting the parent and decreasing interaction with their children. Hearing these distracting sounds in the background can also have a negative effect on a child during unstructured playtime.

Television viewing around bedtime is especially negative because it causes difficulties in sleeping and sleep schedules. This affects a child's mood, behavior and learning.

Many children with increased exposure to media have delayed language development after they start school.

One of the primary researchers, Ari Brown, gave the following recommendation to parents: "In today's 'achievement culture,' the best thing you can do for your young child is to give her a chance to have unstructured play — both with you and independently. Children need this in order to figure out how the world works."

Because of the importance of children or grandchildren learning, it is essential to pay attention to the warnings from AAP and consider reducing or completely eliminating heavy media use for children under 2. Instead, begin reading together with your child to better develop literacy and to insure their success in education and life.

To help in this battle, an online children's magazine has been developed where you can find new short stories to read to your children during the day or at bedtime. You can find more information at www.knowonder.com It's free.

Remember, parents and grandparents stand on the front lines when it comes to the battle for our children. Reading habits you instill early will benefit them for a lifetime.

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