Kaiser Family Foundation Report: Daily Media Use Way Up Among Children and Teens

Most Youth Say They Have No Rules About How Much Time They Can Spend With TV, Video Games, or Computers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With technology allowing nearly 24-hour media access as children and teens go about their daily lives, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically, especially among minority youth, according to a study released Jan. 20th by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.

The amount of time spent with media increased by an hour and seventeen minutes a day over the past five years, from 6:21 in 2004 to 7:38 today. And because of media multitasking, the total amount of media content consumed during that period has increased from 8:33 in 2004 to 10:45 today.

Mobile media driving increased consumption. The increase in media use is driven in large part by ready access to mobile devices like cell phones and iPods. Over the past five years, there has been a huge increase in ownership among 8- to 18-year-olds: from 39% to 66% for cell phones, and from 18% to 76% for iPods and other MP3 players. During this period, cell phones and iPods have become true multi-media devices: in fact, young people now spend more time listening to music, playing games, and watching TV on their cell phones (a total of :49 daily) than they spend talking on them (:33).

Parents and media rules. Only about three in ten young people say they have rules about how much time they can spend watching TV (28%) or playing video games (30%), and 36% 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 3 hours less media per day (2:52) than those with no rules.

Media in the home. About two-thirds (64%) of young people say the TV is usually on during meals, and just under half (45%) say the TV is left on “most of the time” in their home, even if no one is watching. Seven in ten (71%) have a TV in their bedroom, and half (50%) have a console video game player in their room. Again, children in these TV-centric homes spend far more time watching: 1:30 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.

“The amount of time young people spend with media has grown to where it’s even more than a full-time work week,” said Drew Altman, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “When children are spending this much time doing anything, we need to understand how it’s affecting them – for good and bad.”
Heavy media users report getting lower grades. While the study cannot establish a cause and effect relationship between media use and grades, there are differences between heavy and light media users in this regard. About half (47%) of heavy media users say they usually get fair or poor grades (mostly Cs or lower), compared to about a quarter (23%) of light users. These differences may or may not be influenced by their media use patterns. (Heavy users are the 21% of young people who consume more than 16 hours of media a day, and light users are the 17% of young people who consume less than 3 hours of media a day.)

Big changes in TV. 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 (from 2004 to 2009). But the many new ways to watch TV–on the Internet, cell phones, and iPods–actually led to an increase in total TV consumption from 3:51 to 4:29 per day, including :24 of online viewing, :16 on iPods and other MP3 players, and :15 on cell phones. All told, 59% (2:39) of young people’s TV-viewing consists of live TV on a TV set, and 41% (1:50) is time-shifted, DVDs, online, or mobile.

“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, 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.”

Popular new activities like social networking also contribute to increased media use. Top online activities include social networking (:22 a day), playing games (:17), and visiting video sites such as YouTube (:15). Three-quarters (74%) of all 7th-12th graders say they have a profile on a social networking site.

Types of media kids consume. Time spent with every medium other than movies and print increased over the past five years: :47 a day increase for music/audio, :38 for TV content, :27 for computers, and :24 for video games. TV remains the dominant type of media content consumed, at 4:29 a day, followed by music/audio at 2:31, computers at 1:29, video games at 1:13, print at :38, and movies at :25 a day.

Reading. Over the past 5 years, time spent reading books remained steady at about :25 a day, but time with magazines and newspapers dropped (from :14 to :09 for magazines, and from :06 to :03 for newspapers). The proportion of young people who read a newspaper in a typical day dropped from 42% in 1999 to 23% in 2009. On the other hand, young people now spend an average of :02 a day reading magazines or newspapers online.

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