Toddlers more likely to be plonked in front of TV

03:27, Jun 17 2014
tech-savvy toddler
MULTI-TALENTED: Rochelle Cole with her two-year-old Darci, who knows her way around technology but is read to for 30 minutes each night.

Kiwi kids raised with a bedtime story are increasingly of a bygone generation, as research shows a third of 2-year-olds are not read to daily.

Results from New Zealand's largest and most up-to-date longitudinal study show toddlers are ethnically diverse, tech-savvy and - surprise, surprise - "tantrums were the norm for children at 2 years".

Based at Auckland University and funded by government agencies, Growing up in New Zealand involved almost 7000 Kiwi families.

Released today, the third report from the study, Now We Are Two: Describing our first 1000 days, found tots spend an average of 1.5 hours a day in front of a TV screen, and 80 per cent of them watched TV or DVDs daily.

However, just 66 per cent had a book read to them every day.

Rochelle Cole, mother to Ruby, 4, and Darci, 2, allows her daughters to use new technology but values the age-old habit of books before bedtime.


"Every night they have two books. Usually my husband spends a good half-hour reading to them. It's a nice routine, it calms them down before bed."

Cole is a Kiwi but the girls were born in the United States, like their father. The family moved to New Zealand four months ago.

Darci spends two days a week in childcare. Cole is at home with her for the rest of the week.

Unlike most children in the report, Darci hardly watches TV, and rarely uses a computer, instead favouring the iPad.

"We do have a TV but if the girls were to watch a movie, they would use the iPad. They don't use a computer," Cole said.

Cole agreed that 2 was "definitely one of the harder years" to parent. As with most toddlers, Darci was prone to daily tantrums but was now able to communicate with words when she was unhappy. "Every child is different. Ruby was quite easy; Darci is more of a challenge. You learn to parent each child."

The report showed more than 40 per cent of children were able to understand more than one language, with the most common second language being te reo.

Multiple ethnicities were also common. Twenty-five per cent of children identified as Maori.

Another striking feature was "high mobility between and within neighbourhoods", the report said. About 2000 families had moved since their child was 9 months old.

The study's director, Associate Professor Susan Morton, said the report helped build an understanding of what shaped children's development, and the support available to families.

Areas where New Zealand "could do better" included common infectious diseases and hospital admissions for respiratory and other illnesses.

Earlier reports described the children before they were born and in infancy. 



Almost half of children identified with multiple ethnicities

More than 40 per cent of children were at least bilingual

About 80 per cent of children watched TV or DVDs daily at age 2, while 66 per cent were read to daily

Four out of five children "often" expressed their feelings by having a tantrum

Bananas were the favourite food for most 2-year-olds

"Mum", "mummy", or "mama" was the most common first word

86 per cent were described as in very good or excellent health

92 per cent of children were fully immunised by 2 years of age

Half the mothers involved were not in paid work when their children were 2, but almost all of the fathers were in paid work at this stage

The average length of time 2-year-olds spent in childcare was 24 hours per week.

The average cost of childcare per week was $160.