The “MEDIA DIET” of the average 8 – 18 Year Old Child

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Off the back of reading and presenting to you the 9 part blog series on the wonderful book, “Parenting Well in a Media Age” by Gloria DeGaetano, I thought I would be interesting to present some statistics on screen use and the influence of the media on our children’s lives. The majority of the facts presented here are taken from The Kaiser Family Foundation Study of Jan 2010 called: “Generation M – Media in the Lives of 8 – 18 Year Olds”. This data is reflective of US youth and the data was gathered between 1999 and 2009.

We all know and recognize just how much more prolific and pervasive the effects of media are today as compared with even 2009 and it would be very interesting to see what these figures would actually be today? It’s only 5 years on, but my guess is that the stats would most probably be even more staggering! The opening paragraph, a summary from this study, is as follows:

“A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 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. 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 7”

The most striking changes in the media landscape noted between 2004 and 2009 in this study was the explosion of cell phone ownership and usage among teens:

  • In 2004, 56% of older teens owned a cell phone
  • In 2009 this rose to 85% with 31% of 8 – 10 year olds having a phone and 69% of 11 – 14 year olds having one
  • 46% of 8 – 18 year olds sent an average of 118 text messages per day
  • 27% reported to having had rules set by their parents on their cell phone behavior
  • The average time older teens spent on the phone for use as a media platform ie. for games, music, TV was 1 hour and 6 minutes per day. Texting and talking was not included in this number

Some other interesting statistics from the Kaiser Study are as follows:

  • The average time older teens spent on a Computer in a day (For Social Media, Games, YouTube, Instant Messaging, Email, Graphics/Photos etc) was 1 hour and 29 minutes. This number did not include using it for homework, TV or music
  • On a given day, 60% of young people played Video Games, spending an average of 2 hours doing so
  • On a typical day, 8 – 18 year olds spent an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes listening to music
  • On a typical day, the average amount of time spent with TV, Music, PC, Video Games, Print, Movies was 10 hours and 45 minutes
  • Boys consume more media than girls, with most of the difference coming from time spent playing console video games
  • The latest figures today report that US Youth spend 8 hours and 40 minutes in front of screens and Canadian Youth spend 7 hours and 48 minutes in front of screens

In my search for statistics, I came across many excellent web sites, two of which stood out for me. They both provide valuable information regarding the impact of media on our children.

At www.participaction.com they give a lot of useful tips regarding managing your child’s media consumption and summarize the impact of this well with a home page displaying the following highly relevant information:

“Kids don’t play as much as they used to for a lot of reasons. One very real barrier to play is the constant lure of screens – video games, television, the internet and smartphones – that has replaced time spent running, playing, and being active”

“The Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children and Youth recommend limiting kids’ screen time to two hours or less a day (and zero screen time for children under the age of two)”

They cite that too much screen time can:

  • Make it hard for a child to sleep at night
  • Raise kid’s risk of attention problems, anxiety, and depression
  • Raise a child’s risk of gaining too much weight
  • Leave less time for, and in many cases, replace active, creative play

The other media resource site I came across in my search this week was: www.commonsensemedia.org. Common Sense Media’s site does a good job of curating some of the higher quality games that are out there: for example, you can select your child’s age category and get a list of games appropriate for the age and stage. This site also offers some good answers to common questions surrounding internet use and media consumption.

I hope that you have found the information that I selected to present here as interesting as I did. I have to admit to finding it hard to believe that children are spending so much time engaged with a two dimensional screen but have to believe that these figures are an accurate reflection of the reality of the times.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any media concerns that are affecting you and your family and perhaps negatively influencing the relationships you have with your children. Alternatively, if you would like more information regarding topics such as:

  • How much media is okay?
  • What content is appropriate?
  • The over-all effect that time spent on a 2D screen has on your child’s developing brain

Please give me a shout. Perhaps you would like to arrange a time for a presentation on this subject with a group of like-minded Mom’s or for your school? Please contact me via the contact form on the YPP website.

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