I’ve written many times about the memes that get shared on Facebook by parenting pages1, mothers who blog2, and mothers who have their own business and sell online from home3. I have pulled many of these apart and criticised their rampant sexism towards or exclusion of fathers, or the need for every mother to share their love of wine, coffee and bacon.
I have even made reference recently to the fact that the same memes get shared by every single page, over and over again so that the same meme keeps popping up in my news feed on a regular basis. I’m a little like Rain Man in the sense that I have a pseudo savant syndrome with the ability to remember the most inane things. The reason I mention this is because I have this crazy ability to remember that certain pages I follow share the same meme semi-regularly and I often wonder if the person or people who administer that page know this themselves.
Just this week however, a meme that I have seen shared many times over the years that I’ve been on Facebook has been shared by what seems like a dozen pages in the last few days. When a new meme is created and it goes viral, no doubt, like me, you see it get shared by everyone (like the one about Frozen I have shown here). But the one that has been repeatedly shared this week isn’t new and isn’t related to a recent news story or viral blog post.
And today I saw a new variant of this which inspired me to write about it because I believe that the fact suggested is a myth, or at the very least, it’s exaggerated.
This was version shared by a parenting site today;
This is the version that has been shared a million times;
And here are a few more that I found when doing a Google search;
No matter who creates it and on what platform or meme creator it’s made using, the same number for this fact about the inquisitive minds of a 4-year-old child is used, and that number is always 437. But is this true or is this just a random number that someone came up with once and others have just run with it? I think the latter is the case.
I spent most of my lunch break as well as downtime waiting to see a client this morning and waiting for clearance to drop of a carton at a trucking depot googling this to find the news story or study on this. I found some saying approximately 200 questions are asked, some that suggest nearly 300 are asked, and various other numbers somewhere in between, or even lower than 200 times.
If I narrow down the search by using the key words of “437 questions” and “4-year-old” Google returns heaps of sites with this “fact” but most are Facebook pages and the search result has picked up the file name of the meme in question, or other pages like Tumblr and Pintrest where the meme has also been shared a thousand times. There are even two videos on YouTube that are shown in the search results and I am sure they were titled “On average, a 4-year-old child asks 437 questions a day” just so that they could pick up clicks from people who have done a Google search just as I have to verify this claim.
So let’s take a look at the claim the same way that Mythbusters would.
Jamie “Well Adam, today we have a doozy of a myth to bust. Have you seen that meme which states that the average 4 year old child asks 437 questions per day? Is that even possible?”
Adam “I’ve seen this Jamie. I think the best way to test this is to do some maths…”
Narrator “While Jamie goes off to get a pen, Adam goes and gets some paper and a calculator.”
Adam “I think what we need to do first is to decide how many hours a night a 4 year old should sleep so we can work out how many waking hours in a day that 4 year old would have.”
Jamie “I’ve already done that Adam and the results have come in.”
Narrator (over video montage of Jamie googling the question earlier in the day) “Jamie sat down at the computer and used many sources from around the Internet and found out that it is suggested that a 4 year old should sleep 12 hours each night.”
Jamie “According to parenting websites and forums it is suggested that 4 year olds sleep for 12 hours. Knowing there is 24 hours in a day, I simply subtracted 12 from 24 and worked out that a 4 year old child would be awake for 12 hours.”
Adam “That’s some mighty fine calculations there Jamie.”
Jamie “Thanks Adam. But wait, there’s more calculations to be done. Let’s take those 437 questions that the myth suggests and find out how many times an hour those 4 year olds are asking these questions.”
Adam “Okay. I’m inputting 437 into the calculator and pressing the division button followed by the number 12 being the hours in the day and now I’m pressing the equals button. The result is…”
Narrator “Adam shows Jamie the calculator with a figure of 36.41666666666667 showing on the LCD screen.”
Adam “I think it would be best to round that figure up to two decimal places. That gives us 36.42 times in an hour that the questions are asked.”
Jamie “I’m wondering what the frequency of those questions are.”
Adam “I’ve done the calculations already.”
Narrator “Adam entered the number 60 into the calculator for the number of minutes in an hour and divided this by the amount of questions the myth suggests are asked each hour giving the result on the calculator of 1.647446457990115.”
Jamie “Of course we need to work out what 0.647446457990115 of a minute equates to.”
Adam “Done. That’s approximately 39 seconds. So the frequency of the questions being asked is every one minute and 39 seconds…”
Jamie “Or every 99 seconds…”
Adam “That doesn’t seem feasible.”
Jamie “I’m with you on that Adam. When you consider that a 4 year old can be rather independent and is likely to spend time on their own playing with their toys, the amount of hours spent with at least one parent would be reduced and the frequency of questions in the remaining hours would be reduced. If you factor in television time that the average 4 year old will undoubtedly watch, then the hours in a day in which a 4 year old child might interact with their child is reduced.”
Narrator “Whilst the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that young children are not exposed to more than two hours of television per day, studies show that on average, children of that age are watching twice as much television.”
Jamie “We could factor those hours into our equations and use two hours of unsupervised play time and four hours of television time reducing the amount of hours left to interact with a parent down to six hours.”
Adam “If we assume that a parent is watching television with the child or is in the vicinity of the child watching television for half of their viewing time, then there’s the possibility of the child asking questions during that time. Let’s also assume that the child may ask the parent for some assistance in finding a certain toy, or building or dismantling Lego sets so we could add an further hour. Let’s take those hours back up to nine hours for asking questions.”
Jamie “437 questions asks over nine hours means 48.56 questions per hour instead of 36.42 with a frequency of one minute and 14 seconds or every 74 seconds that a question is asked.”
Adam “I’m afraid we’ll have to call that busted Jamie.”
Jamie “Oh, I am so with you on that Adam.”
Narrator “Another myth busted by Jamie and Adam.”
So what do you think? Does the meme use an exaggerated arbitrary figure to make it it look like parents are fielding more questions than possible so they can seem like Supermoms and Superdads? Do you have kids that ask lots of questions? How many questions would you suggest they ask each day?1. I’ve written parenting pages, but as many dads can attest, these are mostly aimed at mothers only. 2. Mothers who blog is an alternative name to the Mom/Mum or Mummy/Mommy Blogger title as many mothers take umbrage to to those terms. 3. Mumpreneurs or Mompreneurs.