Did you read to your kids today? Did you park them in front of the television? Did you hand over your iPhone to keep them from whining at the grocery store? If so, you're not alone. A new study by Common Sense Media found that kids ages 0-8 spend an average of two hours a day with screen media like smartphones, video games, computers, television, and DVDs. And reading? They do that, too -- but not nearly as much as the other stuff.
Little kids love digital. Among 0- to 8-year-olds, a quarter (27 percent) of all screen time is spent on digital devices like computers, video games, smartphones, and tablets.
Books take a back seat to television. Zero- to 8-year-olds spend an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes per day watching television and DVDs, compared to 29 minutes reading or being read to. Babies and toddlers under age 2 spend more than twice as much time watching television and DVDs (53 minutes) as they do reading or being read to (23 minutes).
The digital divide is growing. Nearly three out of four (72 percent) of 0- to 8-year-olds have a computer at home, but access ranges from 48 percent among those from low-income families to 91 percent among higher-income families.
There's a new "app gap." Among lower-income children, 27 percent have a parent with a smartphone, compared to 57 percent for higher-income children.
One thing you can act on now is your unique role in creating healthy lifelong patterns in your kids' critical early years. Here's how:
Provide balance. Balance the types of media your kids are exposed to -- television, computers, music, books, etc. And balance the time kids spend using them with other activities that foster their emotional, social, cognitive, and physical development.
Be sensitive to differences. One of the key findings of the Zero to Eight report is that media exposure and choices differ by socio-economic status. Don't assume that everyone has the same technology or follows the same rules -- or even has rules for media consumption at all. Uneven access can lead to uneven knowledge, so help your kids understand that all families are different.