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Watching TV is punishment for kids

News, 08 July 2015

NEW YORK: More than half of US children prefer to watch video content on a mobile device, to the extent that parents, when disciplining them, will often remove the device but still let them watch a television set.

It is, said Advertising Age, "a sort of Pavlovian response that equates TV with punishment".

A study by Miner & Co Studio included in-home ethnographies and a survey fielded among 800 moms and dads of children between the ages of 2 and 12, living in the US and watching at least some video content on a tablet and/or smartphone.

This found that 57% of parents said their child would rather watch video content on a device other than the TV.

The top reason for this was simply that they could take it anywhere, although they also liked to use the touch screen, and enjoyed the fact it was easier to use and gave them a sense of independence.

"We used to use the term 'platform agnostic', but that conveys the sense that you don't care one way or the other which platform you're using," Robert Miner, CEO of the eponymous consultancy, told Advertising Age.

"With kids, that pretty obviously is not the case. So, I like to say that we're 'platform polygamists'. All platforms are basically sister wives now."

Just over half of parents (56%) said it wasn't unusual for their children to be watching different content on different devices at the same time. TV may be not so much the second as the third screen for some children.

Curiously, 39% of parents also reported that their children sometimes viewed the same content on different devices, simultaneously.

Faced with this dedication to their mobile devices, half of parents said they sometimes took away tablets and smartphones as a form of punishment and the child "just watches TV instead".

Not even the offer of dessert is enough to tear them away from their devices for a few minutes. Four in ten parents said their offspring would choose the tablet; just one in three thought the dessert would be an attractive option.

These trends clearly have implications for a range of businesses – TV networks, cable and satellite companies, streaming services and content creators – but the exact nature of these is difficult to say with any exactness.

"It's like a cartographer writing 'here be dragons' on the uncharted part of the Medieval map," observed Miner.

Data sourced from Miner & Co Studio, Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff