Dumbing Down Kids

Published January 1, 2003

The very youngest children in America are growing up immersed in media, spending hours a day watching TV and videos, using computers and playing video games, according to a study released by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

A third of all children up to age 6 have a TV in their bedroom, more than one in four have a VCR or DVD, one in 10 has a video game player, and seven in 10 have a computer. Thirty percent of those up to age 3 have a TV in their room, and 43 percent of 4- to 6-year-olds do.

A coauthor of the study, Elizabeth Vandewater, who is assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said, “When children have TVs and other media in their bedrooms, it’s more difficult for parents to monitor what they’re doing. The growing phenomenon of media in the bedroom and its impact on child development is a crucial area of future research.”

Children who have a TV in their bedroom spend significantly more time watching than other children do, and less time reading or getting healthy exercise. Related studies indicate that in addition to being “dumbed down” by electronic media, children who are overdosing on screen media are also endangering their health, becoming overweight and even obese.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.