Glued to Their Phones? Study Says Children Still Watch TV More Than Anything

By Bill Andrews | February 19, 2019 2:17 pm
child watching tv

(Credit: Tatyana Korotun/Shutterstock)

As technology advances, so do our fears about it. Socrates himself didn’t care for the new advancement of writing. And my parents were always on me to watch less TV.

Yet now as a parent, I’m always trying to limit how much screentime my 3-year-old spends with a phone or tablet. After all, everyone knows little kids are drawn to those portable devices like moths to a touch-sensitive flame, right?

Not so fast, suggests a study this week in JAMA Pediatrics. Despite that perception, TV consumption is still far greater among children than any other kind of screen usage. Researchers say that any concerns about keeping kids active and their brains properly developing will have to focus more on TV than mobile devices.

Keen on Screens

The study, by two Florida International University researchers, compared screen time use among kids under 6 in 1997 (before the onslaught of cell phones and tablets) and in 2014. For their raw numbers, they turned to existing diary data from the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics — a much more accurate gauge of time usage than the more common parental surveys, which can take place long after the fact.

The researchers tabulated how many hours 1,327 kids spent in front of a screen in 1997, defined as “watching television programs or videotapes, plus time spent on electronic video games and home computer-related activities.” They then compared the findings with those from 443 kids in 2014 — only by now, “screen time activities included the use of television, videotapes, digital video disc, game devices, computer, cell phone, smartphone, tablet, electronic reader, and children’s learning devices.” Quite a longer list!

As Socrates would expect, things are worse now: Among kids 2 and under, screen time more than doubled, from about 1.32 hours a day to about 3.05. But, somewhat unexpectedly, the portion of that time devoted to TV-type screens shot up too, from 43 percent in 1997 to 86 percent in 2014. Older kids, 3 to 5 years old, spend about the same amount of time watching screens then as now, but again, TV made up a much larger percentage of it: just 48 percent of total screen time in 1997, but 78 percent in 2014.

The Same Old TV Show

The study also compared screen time to different demographic data, such as education and income levels, and found typical correlations there. (Higher income households were more likely to have less screen time, for example.)

But overall, the study stayed focused on the counterintuitive TV-related findings: Despite the prevalence (and handwringing over) smartphones and tablets, kids are actually watching more TV than ever. The authors leave it for others to study possible links between such screen time and possible negative outcomes; they just wanted to make sure people know to keep TV in the mix. “As stakeholders warn against an over-reliance on mobile devices,” they write, “they should be mindful that young children spend most of their screen time watching television.”

Too much TV: It’s a story as stale as an old rerun, but apparently kids aren’t ready to change the channel just yet.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: computers
  • Uncle Al

    I demand interminable common ignorance for reasons of cultural fairness and universal dependency. A four-year old who can read and type is White Supremacy – and Asians are in on it. Open borders, close minds.

    … We will never abide the evil-IQ.

    • Ryan Snaca AniloHectycle

      Do not worry, the dysgenic landslide may never prolong’edly recycle glutathione reliably despite “pseudo hybdridization”. This will one day, be a world of isotopes, and intensified winters!

  • Gayle

    I basically gain nearly $6,000-$8,000 every 30 days using the internet. I lost my job after doing work for the same company for years, I needed trusted earnings, I was not researching for the “get rich quick” home packages you can find online. Those are typical pyramid schemes or stuff in which you have to sell to your friends and family members. I just wanted a legitimate way to earn a living for me and my family members. The most exciting part of working on-line is that I am always home with the little ones and also enjoy lots of free time with my family members in various beautiful beaches of the world. All you need to do is submit a simple form to get front line access to the Home Profit System . You don’t need to be a computer whiz, but you should be aware how to use the internet. If you can fill forms and surf sites, you can do it easily, You don’t even have to sell anything and no-one has to buy anything .Here’s the best way to begin>>> IX2.CO/V73m


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar