Kaiser Study: Kids Age 8 to 18 Spend More Than Seven Hours a Day With Media
1.21.10 | A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that young people age 8 to 18 are spending more time with media than ever before: more than seven and half hours a day—and one hour more than five years ago.
And if the total takes into account multi-tasking—say, watching TV while updating Facebook—the number rises to 11 hours of total media content each day.
“The bottom line is that all these advances in media technologies are making it even easier for young people to spend more and more time with media,” said Victoria Rideout, Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of the study. “It’s more important than ever that researchers, policymakers and parents stay on top of the impact it’s having on their lives.”
The type of media young people are consuming has changed and become much more fluid, both in terms of the devices used and the content. Traditional TV-watching has dropped by 25 minutes a day, although online and mobile TV viewing more than made up for the drop. Total TV viewing is at four and half hours a day.
Music (two and half hours), computers (one and half hours) and video games (a little more than an hour) are the next most popular media.
Computers and mobile devices are the source of the newest activities: Social networking is the top online activity (22 minutes a day), following closely by online games (17 minutes) and video sites like YouTube (15 minutes).
Reading, that age-old medium, clocks in at 38 minutes a day. While the amount of time spent reading print newspapers and magazines has declined, time spent reading books has remained constant over the years, the survey found.
Racial and gender gaps have grown. Black and Hispanic children use more media than white children—almost four an half hours more in total, almost half of which is due to more TV viewing.
The gender gap has more to do with what type of media children consumer. Girls spend more time on social networking, music and reading, while boys spend much more time on video games.
The study has major implications for education—both in terms of what and how students are taught. Donald F. Roberts, a Stanford communications professor emeritus and one of the authors of the study, told The New York Times that young people have much more access and dexterity with information.
“It’s changed young people’s assumptions about how to get an answer to a question,” Roberts said. “People can put out a problem, whether it’s ‘Where’s a good bar?’ or ‘What if I’m pregnant?’ and information pours in from all kinds of sources.”
Other experts—like Michael Rich, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston who directs the Center on Media and Child Health—called for educators and parents to stop handwringing and engage children where they’re at. Rich argues that media needs to be accepted as part of children’s environment, ‘‘like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.”
Reinforcing Rich’s point, a recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that over the past decade an overwhelming percentage of all Americans, not just kids, had a positive viewing of evolving technologies—from e-mail to the Internet to cell phones.
Understanding and dialogue between generations—especially between parents and children—is critical. The Kaiser study found that young people regulated their media use more when limits were set, although few than half said there are rules in their home.
While it’s more difficult for parents to know what and how much media their children are using, Rideout, director of the Kaiser study, said that parents can still play a role.
“I don’t think parents should feel totally disempowered,” she said. “They can still make rules, and it still makes a difference.”
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