The first paragraph of a front-page article in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 25 really startled me.
"Nearly half of babies under age two in the United States watch an average of two hours of TV every day, and 10 percent of children that age have used a smart phone, tablet, or other mobile device at least once in their young lives, according to a survey released today."
The survey results were compiled by Common Sense Media and, added the Chronicle, "come just a week after the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children under age two watch no TV at all, even 'second hand TV', when parents or others watch TV while children are nearby".
What are the effects? According to the paper, it's too early to tell, but certainly more study is needed.
Psychologists tell me that younger children exposed to media stimulation are more likely to develop ADD and ADHD because their capacity for concentration and postponement of gratification is compromised. Nevertheless, I'm rocked by the fact that our newest media are being adopted by little kids. (I can imagine their Facebook walls, with dirty fingerprints and Gerber's mashed peas all over them. Do they tweet about their favorite cartoons?)
In any case, the survey found that the kids spent twice as much time as reading or being read to, and that's alarming to me.
It also stands to reason that little kids are being exposed to more and more marketing messages, including commercials. I believe it's time we start having media education classes pretty early in elementary school. Kids have to learn how companies are trying to persuade them, through videos and commercials and even in some of the shows themselves. They should be taught what to look for and to question what they see. We adults know that there's a certain amount of puffery and persuasive imagery in advertising for a reason. Children have to be taught to be discerning.
I even think it would be a service to advertisers if the TV networks themselves would sponsor this education, both on the air and in our schools. It would serve them well with their critics, too. I don't think advertisers have anything to fear. It would help make them better understood.
Good advertising is always directed to smart people. Let's just help make them smarter younger.