According to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, when our kids aren’t in school, they’re spending the almost every waking using a computer, smart phone, television or electronic device.
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s national survey found that with technology allowing nearly 24-hour media access to children and teens, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically, especially among minority youth. Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes 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 worth of media content into those 7½ hours.
When the last study was done five years ago, youths ages 8 to 18 spent six and a half hours a day online. Today they spend more than seven and a half hours a day with these devices that don’t even include the hour and a half that they spend texting at the half-hour they talk on their cell phones.
They multitask, surf the Internet while listening to music and use on average nearly 11 hours of media content into that seven and a half hours.
A 14-year-old Bronx eighth grader who uses his smart phone to surf the Web, watch videos, and listens to music says he sends or receives about 500 texts a day.
The authors of the study concluded in 2005 that use could not possibly grow further, and confirmed the fears of many parents whose children are constantly glued to media devices. It found, moreover, that heavy media use is associated with several negatives, including behavior problems and lower grades.
The study also found that young people’s media consumption grew far more in the last five years than from 1999 to 2004, as sophisticated mobile technology like iPods and smart phones brought media access into teenagers’ pockets and beds.
According to Dr. Michael Rich, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston who directs the Center on Media and Child Health, “With media use so ubiquitous, it was time to stop arguing over whether it was good or bad and accept it as part of children’s environment, “like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.”
Yet, other studies have established a link between screen time and obesity.
While most of the youths in the study got good grades, 47 percent of the heaviest media users — those who consumed at least 16 hours a day — had mostly C’s or lower, compared with 23 percent of those who typically consumed media three hours a day or less. The heaviest media users were also more likely than the lightest users to report that they were bored or sad, or that they got into trouble, did not get along well with their parents and were not happy at school.
The study could not say whether the media use causes problems, or, rather, whether troubled youths turn to heavy media use.
The report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 students in grades 3 to 12 between October 2008 to May 2009.
What’s a parent to do?
Understand the who they’re contacting, what the content is that they’re seeing and what is the cost of all of this media taking away from them.
It’s no longer enough for parents to know the computer and the Internet. The world is changing and parents must be savvy on the computer, Internet, cell and smart phones, texting, playing online games, watching videos and movies online, as well listening to music.
During meals and family times together, put the smart/cell phones away. Find a balance between family and media time and learn how to connect to their world because … it’s not going to go away.
Learn about Internet Safety and the lingo your kids use.
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