Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Square eyes? TV, computers & Kids

Researchers in the United Kingdom might be giving new meaning to the term 'square eyes'. They have found that British children are spending over five hours per day looking at a television screen or monitor. Rosemary Duff from the market research agency ChildWise, interviewed 1,147 children in 60 schools in England, Scotland and Wales. A report on the work published in the Guardian newspaper indicated that:

  • British children spend on average 5 hours and 20 minutes per day in front of screens of one sort or another (up from 4 hrs 40 minutes five years ago).
  • Two thirds watch TV before school and 83 per cent turn it on when they get home.
  • Fifty eight per cent watch television during their evening meal and almost two thirds of children do so in bed before going to sleep.
  • Boys spend 2.7 hours a day watching TV and 1.9 hours on-line, while girls spend 2.6 hours watching TV but more time on the internet - 2.1 hours a day.
  • 80% of children have a TV in their rooms.
  • While 80% read books in their free time, only 53% do so at least once per week and 25% daily.
This is not a new topic, we have known for years that children probably watch too much television. What is interesting about this recent work is the added influence of computers and the way TV and computers are pervading so much of life. While ChildWise have been conducting this survey for 14 years new insights are being gained.
The most worrying aspect of the report is that it suggests that children seem to be doing more multitasking, watching TV while they eat, fall asleep, do homework, play video games, social networking online and so on. There is also a tendency to flick between channels (especially boys) to keep up with two simultaneous shows at once. While this might sound just like children imitating their parents, it is a worrying trend.

For me, the work raises more questions than answers, including:
What impact does such extensive TV and computer use have on reading (certainly, this research suggests that increased viewing may lead to a reduction in reading)?
What impact does it have on family time and parent child interaction?
What impact does TV and Internet use have on the whole child (e.g. emotional and physical health and development)?
An excellent site that addresses some of the latter issues is the Canadian Media Awareness Network (I'll do a post on this later). This won't be my last post on this topic.


Anonymous said...


I came across your blog looking up reviews for YBCR and I am so glad I found the info you provided. I dont think I will be exposing my daughter of 7 months to TBCR. As eager as my husband and I are for her to learn we were concerned about her watching tv and videos so early.
Do you know or have any info regarding infants or children under 2 watching tv? I heard it causes over stimulation for their growing brain. Is this true?

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Anonymous, yes there is evidence to suggest that it may not be helpful for children under the age of 2 years to view much television. I've been meaning to do a post on this for some time so will try to address it in the next month or so. Best wishes, Trevor