Kids' Media Use Tops Seven Hours a Day, Study Finds

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

Media use among kids is way up over five years ago. Credit: lather rinse repeat, Flickr

Are we surprised that a new survey has found daily media use among children and teens is up dramatically from five years ago? Um, no. Our 5-year-old is more adept at using our iPod Touch than we are.

But, the amount of time kids are spending with entertainment media is kinda crazy. The study, released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, finds 8- to 18- year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to it during a typical day. That's more than 53 hours a week. It's a full-time job!

Actually, it's nearly two jobs. The study states that because kids spend so much of that time "media multitasking" -- using more than one medium at a time -- they really pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those seven-plus hours.

That time is up by an hour and 17 minutes a day from five years ago. This is the third in a series of large-scale, nationally representative surveys by Kaiser about young people's media use.

Here are some interesting finds from the report:

  • Cell phone ownership among kids is way up. We're talking a jump from 39 to 66 percent for cell phones, and from 18 to 76 percent for iPods and other MP3 players. Also, thanks to new technology, young people now spend more time listening to music, playing games and watching TV on their cell phones (a total of 49 minutes daily) than they spend talking on them (33 minutes).
  • Rules? What rules? Only about three in 10 young people say they have rules about how much time they can spend watching TV (28 percent) or playing video games (30 percent), and 36 percent say the same about using the computer. But when parents do set limits, children spend less time with media: Those with any media rules consume nearly three hours less media per day than those with no rules.
  • Turn on the TV, it's time to eat! About two-thirds (64 percent) of young people say the TV is usually on during meals, and nearly half (45 percent) say the TV is left on "most of the time" in their home, even if no one is watching. Seven in 10 (71 percent) of those surveyed have a TV in their bedroom, and half have a console video game player in their room. Again, children in these TV-centric homes spend far more time watching (one and half hours more a day) in homes where the TV is left on most of the time, and an hour more among those with a TV in their room.
  • What about their grades? About half (47 percent) of heavy media users say they usually get fair or poor grades (mostly Cs or lower), compared to about a quarter (23 percent) of light users. These differences may or may not be influenced by their media use patterns. (Heavy users are the 21 percent of young people who consume more than 16 hours of media a day, and light users are the 17 percent of young people who consume less than three hours of media a day.)
  • Race and ethnicity plays a role. Media use varies substantially between members of various ethnic and racial groups. Black and Hispanic children consume nearly four and a half more hours of media daily than white children (13 hours of total media exposure for Hispanics, 12:59 for blacks and 8:36 for whites). Some of the largest differences are in TV viewing: Black children spend nearly six hours watching and Hispanics just under five and a half hours, compared to roughly three and half hours a day for white youth. The only medium where there is no significant difference between these three groups is print. Differences by race/ethnicity remain even after controlling for other factors such as age, parents' education and single vs. two-parent homes. The racial disparity in media use has grown substantially over the past five years: The gap between white and black youth was just over two hours in 2004, and has grown to more than four hours today.
  • The networks are gonna be mad. For the first time over the course of the study, the amount of time spent watching regularly-scheduled TV declined, by 25 minutes a day. But the many new ways to watch TV -- on the Internet, cell phones and iPods -- actually led to an increase in total TV consumption.
  • Blame Facebook. Top online activities include social networking (22 minutes a day), playing games (17 minutes), and visiting video sites such as YouTube (15 minutes). Three-quarters of all 7th to 12th graders say they have a profile on a social networking site.
  • Does anybody read anymore? Over the past five years, time spent reading books remained steady at about 25 minutes a day, but time with magazines and newspapers dropped. The proportion of young people who read a newspaper in a typical day dropped from 42 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2009.
  • But it's for school, Ma! About half of young people say they use media either "most" (31 percent) or "some" (25 percent) of the time they're doing their homework.
  • Gender gap. Girls spend more time than boys using social networking sites, listening to music and reading. Boys spend more time than girls playing console video games, computer games and going to video Web sites like YouTube.
Related: Study Finds Women Facebook 'Too Much'

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.