New Study: 25% of Kids Under 6 Use the Internet Regularly, Is That Bad?

One in four children under age 6 use the internet regularly, according to a new report by Sesame Workshop and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. And thirty-six percent of children ages two to 11 watch TV and use the Internet at the same time.

The report, called Always Connected, looks at kids-and-media data from seven studies. It found that most children spend at least three hours a day watching TV, and the number of preschoolers watching TV is higher than it's been in almost a decade.

“Given that there are no national standards for evaluating digital media the onus is very much on families to figure out what products are worthy, as well as what's appropriate for young children,”says Michael Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. “Parents should keep developmental milestones in mind when choosing which apps to download, which ebooks to read, or which webistes to peruse with their young children.”

Some other suggestions from Levine:

Read Web sites that review digital media
Levine likes Common Sense Media, Parents Choice Awards, Children's Technology Review, Geekdad and Geekmom. “Follow one or two whose taste aligns with yours to stay current with what's worth your family's time (and money).”

Encourage conversation
“If you and your three-year-old delight in sitting on the couch together reading The Monster at The End of This Book on your ipad, that's great,” says Levine. “It likely promotes conversation, laughter, curiosity -- all stuff we know is good for healthy development.”

Need motivation to limit your tot's screen time? Check out our slideshow on ways to keep your kids entertained without television, and learn about the psychological problems too much TV and video games can cause. But don't panic and feel like you have to completely pull the (computer) plug, either. As with most things, moderation -- and balance -- is key.

"Don't underestimate trusting your gut on much of this," Levine says, "as you come up with a media diet that makes sense for your child."

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