Kaiser Foundation Counts Toddler Eyeballs

Posted by: David Kiley on May 24, 2006

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s newest report attempts to quantify the assumption that many parents are using electronic media as babysitters for young children.

According to “The Media Family” study, 80 percent of children under age 6 watch an average of two hours of TV per day. In addition, more than 60 percent of babies 1 year old and younger are also watching at least some of the time.

The report arrives when conversation has heated up about how much TV small kids should be exposed. The chatter has been ignited by the launch of two 24-hour networks—PBS Kids Sprout and BabyFirst TV—which cater to the preschool audience. Too, Sesame Street has been looking for product promotional partners for its DVDs.

The Kaiser study reports that 30 percent of children 6 and under live in homes where the TV is on most or all of the day during meals.

Advertisers and their reps like the Association oif National Advertisers, of course, say the concern is groundless and that good parents will simply govern kids viewing hours. They don’t wantr to see any government bodies restricting their freedom of commerce just to make parenting easier.

I confess that I wouldn’t mind if tougher curbs were placed on ads aimed at kids. My family just moved. And with all the activity surrounding packing and unpacking, we let my son watch way too many DVDs on a portable DVD player over the course of two or three weeks. We needed it as a babysitter while we concentrated on getting the house packed and unpacked. And in that time, we noticed a really unhealthy change in our four year old son. He became more combative, surly and didn’t want to eat a meal with us without it on. Gone!! We put it away. And we are reserving it for car trips only now.

Worrisome too is how he will recite sponsor and ad teaser messages from DVDs we let him watch from time to time such as Toy Story and Lady and the Tramp. He will riff word for word about Dreamworks, a DVD that is previewed and teased on the DVD as if he is auditioning for an announcer’s job.

Troubling. It all goes to how impressionable they are. What sponges they are. Can’t we all agree, freedom of commerce and speech aside, that we all have a stake in such young kids not being the target of such heavy commercial rotation?

ON the flipside of how media can positively impact a kid. he also is fond of the ecoworld website linked off PBSKids. He and I often pass the time in the car trading environmental quiz questions. “If I chnage the oil in the minivan, what should I do with the oil? Take it to a service station or the recycling center so it can be properly recycled, or dump it down a storm drain in the street?” We now make up our own questions that aren’t even on the ecoworld site. Now, that’s media exposure I can get interested in for my pre-schooler. His knowledge of Pampers latest swim diapers because of ads they have been running or M&Ms…not so much.

I do take great pleasure, though, when I ask him what he wants to drink and he says…water…and not Coke or Pepsi. I almost have him thinking that Water Rocks!

Reader Comments

Thomas Jefferson

December 14, 2006 9:27 AM

I also moved from an infant's grasp of Python to a toddler's grasp as I began exploring Orange (the datamining toolkit, not the mobile network operator). It's outrageously simple to use. I'm in love!

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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