AUSTIN, Texas—Seventy-five percent of infants, toddlers and preschoolers watch television daily for an average of more than one hour, report researchers from The University of Texas at Austin in their comprehensive study of media use among children ages zero to six.
AUDIO: Listen to an audio clip about Dr. Elizabeth Vandewater’s study on media use among children ages zero to six.
—From HHS HealthBeat, an audio outreach of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Elizabeth Vandewater and her colleagues also found that computers are making inroads with young children. In their study, more than 25 percent of five- to six-year-olds used a computer daily for almost an hour.
This is the first study to provide comprehensive information on the extent of media use among young children in the United States.
“Young children today are growing up in a media-saturated environment with almost universal access to television, and we found that a striking number—one-fifth of zero- to two-year-olds and more than a third of three- to six-year-olds—have a television in their bedroom,” said Vandewater, associate professor of human development and family sciences and director of the Children and Media Research Center.
“Media and technology are here to stay and are virtually guaranteed to play an ever-increasing role in daily life, even among the very young,” she said.
Though the American Academy for Pediatrics has made strong recommendations about media use for young children, Vandewater said that prior to this study there were no baseline data on media use in these age groups.
This new research is particularly important given the recent explosion in media marketed to the very youngest children, including DVDs aimed at infants and video games for preschoolers.
“Now we know how these young children are using media today, and we can begin to study the effects—both positive and negative—that this media use may be having on their development,” said Vandewater, also the associate director of the university’s Population Research Center.
Vandewater’s study, published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics, was designed and analyzed in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation. The researchers analyzed information about children from interviews with 1,045 parents. Analyses were weighted to represent national distributions of ethnicity and income.