Can You Guess What Preschoolers Do 4 Hours/Day and How It Affects Them?

Kara Powell | Feb 21, 2013

What do preschoolers do four hours per day?

Not nap.

They watch a screen 4 hours per day.

And what they watch affects them. In fact, while what we see tends to affect our behavior at all ages, preschoolers may be especially susceptible to what they watch, especially when it comes to mimicking aggressive behavior they see on TV or computers. While it’s not entirely clear why that’s the case, it’s thought that perhaps it’s because children ages 2-5 are especially malleable and they don’t yet have the filters to understand “reality” from “make believe”.

As a parent, I have seen the effects of media on our kids firsthand. When 9/11 happened in 2001, our oldest was nine days shy of turning one. Like much of America, we had the T.V. on a fair amount that day, desperate for updates. That night, for the first time really ever, our son seemed to have nightmares. Now, as my engineering husband would like to say, “You can’t determine a trend out of one data point.” It could have been a coincidence. Nonetheless, that one experience was enough to make my husband and me even more cautious about even the news we watch (so we get most of our news online).

As parents as leaders, even if our kids are older, a few questions come immediately to mind: How do we feel about the amount of media our kids are exposed to? What are they learning about relationships and conflict resolution by what they are watching?

I’m not suggesting we dive into a media cave. While being aware of kids’ quantity and quality of media is important, discussions with parents and leaders around the country suggest we take another step: Talk with our kids about the media they are seeing. In fact, some families and leaders find TV, movies, video games, and music a perfect springboard to dive into deeper conversations about relationships, sex, fights, and friends.

How have you used media as a springboard for a good conversation with a child or teenager?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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