Kids and teens are exposed to more media content today than they were 5 years ago, but the number of hours they spend devoted only to media consumption has remained steady, say researchers from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Stanford University in California. Still, although the average number of hours kids spend using media has remained about the same, it's still substantial - equivalent to a 40-hour workweek plus overtime!
In a study of media use among 8- to 18-year-olds, researchers interviewed 2,032 kids and teens about their media habits (in this study, researchers didn't count media use for school or work). Students noted how much time they spent watching live or recorded TV, videos, and movies. They also reported how much time they spent using computers, the Internet, video games, books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, radio, CDs, tapes, and MP3s. In addition, the students answered questions about whether they ever used two forms of media at once, whether their parents had rules about viewing time or media content, and whether they had media in their bedrooms, such as TVs and computers. About a third of the students also completed media diaries. For 7 days, students noted each time they used a form of media.
The kids and teens spent an average of:
- 3 hours 51 minutes watching TV and videos daily
- 1 hour 44 minutes listening to music
- 1 hour 2 minutes using computers
- 49 minutes playing video games
- 43 minutes reading
- 25 minutes watching movies
In comparison, kids and teens spent an average 2 hours 17 minutes hanging out with their parents and 1 hour 25 minutes participating in physical activity. Overall, the time that kids spend exposed to media increased more than an hour in the last 5 years - from 7 hours and 29 minutes daily to 8 hours and 33 minutes daily.
The results also indicated a significant trend among kids and teens - a practice the researchers referred to as "media multitasking," or using more than one form of media at a time. A quarter to a third of kids and teens say they use another type of media most of the time while watching TV, listening to music, or using the computer.
In addition, researchers found that many kids and teens may lack parental supervision when it comes to media exposure - two thirds of the kids and teens in the study had a TV, and half had a video game player in their rooms. And kids and teens with TVs in their rooms logged an average 1.5 hours more TV time than kids who didn't have an in-room TV set.
Finally, despite their concerns about their children's exposure to media, many parents may not set consistent boundaries when it comes to media consumption. More than half of the kids and teens in the study said their parents set no rules about TV watching. However, kids whose parents enforced TV rules reported about 2 hours less media exposure than kids whose parents didn't set rules.
What This Means to You: Kids and teens have a slew of media content to choose from today - and they devote much of their daily lives to watching, using, or listening to media. The results of this study indicate that enforcing rules about TV and computer use could reduce the overall time that kids and teens spend consuming media. If you're concerned about the amount of TV, video game, or computer time your child is logging, try these strategies:
- Plan viewing and computer time. Avoid switching on the TV for background noise or logging onto the Internet just to surf. Instead, encourage your child to watch shows you've picked together ahead of time.
- Make your child's bedroom a media-free zone. Keeping your TV, video games, and computer in a common area can help you monitor the amount and type of media your child is consuming.
Source: "Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds," Victoria Rideout, MA; Donald F. Roberts, PhD; Ulla G. Foehr, MA; Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2005
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2005