Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Sometimes it seems that the days of running around outside with other neighborhood children is a thing of the past. In today's world of heightened technology, cutting edge video games and multiple electronic stimulations, children are spending less time involved in personal interaction and more time in a wired world.
Consider the following:
According to a recent national study tracking entertainment media habits, American youngsters are now using cell phones, iPods, and other electronic devices more than the equivalent of a full day of school.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that:
¥ American children use electronic devices for an average of 7.5 hours per day.
¥ By multi-tasking (texting, sending/reading emails, watching videos and/or playing video games), children fit in practically 11 hours of activity into those 7.5 hours.
¥ Over the past five years, cell phone ownership among 8-to 18-year-olds has increased from 39 percent to 66 percent.
¥ Over the same five year period, iPod and MP3 player ownership has increased from 18 percent to 76 percent.
¥ Young people talk on their phones 33 minutes a day, but spend 49 minutes daily listening to music, playing games and watching TV on their cell phone.
¥ At 53 hours weekly, children now spend more time using electronic media than their parents spend in a full workweek.
A similar study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2008, found that cell phone ownership among young Americans ages 12-17 increased from 45 percent in 2004 to 71 percent in 2008.
What parents need to know:
These findings indicate just how accessible and widespread electronic gadgets are to children Ð and how few parents are imposing parental supervision. In the absence of strict limits on a child's media use, most parents are truly unaware of just how much media their children are using and the type of content they can access on electronic media devices. In fact, the Kaiser study found that only 30 percent of young people say that their parents set rules on how much time they may spend on such devices. Excessive use of such devices can have many damaging consequences to children, such as:
Exposure to violent and sexual content that a child can access and be unwittingly or deliberately exposed to.
Negative messages via electronic devices, such as body image, norms of behavior, or risqu song lyrics.
A drop in academic performance; devices are frequently being used during school hours or in lieu of supervised homework time.
What parents can do:
First and foremost, be aware of the type of content to which your child can be exposed. Nearly all electronic equipment comes with parental controls that can be set to reduce what children can access and for how long.
Depending on the developmental age of the child, have conversations about things they see on television or have access to through the internet or music.
Be aware of the amount of time your child spends on electronic devices and set reasonable time and content limitations.
Don Keenan, the founder of Keenan's Kids Foundation, is the author of the child safety book 365 Ways to Keep Kids Safe, which is available at