Kids Today

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In case you think that the world hasn’t changed all that much since the Internet became commercially viable…

You may want to check out this very interesting article in today’s edition of the USA Today titled, Kids’ electronic media use jumps to 53 hours a week.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Kids spend 53 hours a week with electronic media.
  • That is 7 hours and 38 minutes per day.
  • Surprisingly, this is only 79 minutes more than ten years ago.
  • The biggest drop has been kids reading newspaper and magazines.
  • Kids reading books remains stagnant – meaning, they’re reading as many books as they used to.
  • Cellphone ownership has increased from 39% (in 2004) to 66%.
  • 20% of kids’ media comes via mobile devices.

This will freak some people out.

On a personal note, I was surprised at how surprised some of the people involved in the study and interviewed for this article were about kids and their media usage. Without knowing the details of the research project, there may be some questions as to what constitutes media usage, especially when they considered "hanging out online" as media usage. If kids all have mobile devices, laptops, etc… shouldn’t the number of hours be much higher? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to also say that being online is somewhat different from listening to music or watching TV and movies?

Passive versus active media.

It feels a little bit like this study (and others like it) quantify the Internet as if it’s the same as TV, Print, Radio, etc… Which seems silly (and a little wrong). Kids may be engaged with the online media channel, but using it to collaborate, learn, communicate and not just sit idly by watching more reruns of whatever it is that kids are watching these days. Mobile devices and laptops are active media, while channels like TV, print and radio are passive. This makes comparing the two a little outlandish.

Take a read of the article and add your two cents below.


  1. Peter and I were talking about this study tonight. I’d be curious how they asked the question. Example: did they ask how long are you online for? Most kids would say from the moment they get home until they go to bed bc when are they offline?

  2. I’d be interested in knowing what age group the study focussed on. (admittedly didn’t click over to the original piece yet) my kids are 5 and 2.5 and their usage is limited to whatever time they get at school, they pop bubbles on my iPod in the car, watch the odd retro Batman video on YouTube or maybe play a game at We have a wii and a DS but they lose interest fast. Their prime excitement is still that mom and dad are home and hanging out with them. Legos and dolls still beat out our fancy toys/gadgets every time.

  3. Joel, I have to agree. I have four kids, and watching them interact online, well, I don’t have a clue how you’d measure it. They use electronic media like I do, catch as catch can, grabbing information on the go the way they used to grab a candy bar. For them, “hanging out” on line is a misnomer. I watch them interacting with their friends, sharing ideas, constantly asking the question “what do you *think* about this?” And then using information to act on stuff.
    Even, as a family, the night of the election for example, we’re in a coffee shop — Shannon texting, Allie on Facebook, me on Twitter…and we’re all talking politics. With each other. With the world.

  4. I think this could be a good thing for kids in the sense that there is more interaction between them. The new itablet from apple will change things in the classroom and hopefully get them reading and writing more as opposed to just games and movie clips. Content will have to be altered in order to keep their attention span but all in all I think its wonderful and will be a boon for book publishers and content creators!

  5. More than statistics about internet use, I feel this article identifies adult anxiety over how children spend their time. Of course activities should be discussed and talked about as one researcher notes, but integrating online communications in families can make parents more connected to kids and doesn’t have to compromise socializing in person. Of note, 50 years ago strong laws over comic books (new media) were formed out of anxiety and about 30 years ago, strong laws over music on cd (new media) were formed out of anxiety. I feel that those who were ‘shocked’ need to take a breath before drawing conclusions.

  6. Although some may view some of this as bad (obviously, too much of anything…you know the rest), but there are real opportunities with social media and digital tech for kids in school. As a Superintendent of a K-12 school, we are working on ways to integrate digital technology…it’s where the kids are and we, in education need to start going where the kids are versus making students come to us (just made our first iPhone app the other day…super cool).

  7. “Surprisingly, this is only 79 minutes more than ten years ago.”
    Not sure if that’s surprising, Mitch. I read that wrong first too. It’s 79 minutes more *per day* than 10 years ago. That’s a pretty substantial number given that they’re in school all day.

  8. There was a similar article in the NY Times yesterday titled “If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online”. Umm… Probably? Remember when you used to call your buddy and ask if he/she was online before asking to check something out? Today’s kids (and adults reading this blog) are online 24/7 and I agree you can’t quantify the minutes accurately. There’s no point anyway. An interesting stat from the NY times article that was surprising was that the heaviest users were black and hispanic youths, and kids aged 11-14.

  9. Its a big report…The original is here:
    Although I only skimmed it for what I have an interest in, one thing that I find is interesting:
    ‘For the first time
    since we began this research in 1999, the amount of
    time young people spend watching regularly scheduled
    programming on a television set at the time it is originally
    broadcast has declined (by :25 a day, from 3:04 to 2:39).
    However, the proliferation of new ways to consume TV
    content has actually led to an increase of 38 minutes of
    daily TV consumption. The increase includes an average of
    24 minutes a day watching TV or movies on the Internet,
    and about 15 minutes each watching on cell phones
    (:15) and iPods (:16).’
    So when they talk about TV, they talk about TV content, not the platform….I mean, 15 min on a mobile? They have a better plan than I have…but I find the shift from regular TV watching significant.
    On page 10 there is a revealing chart…
    Among all 8- to 18-year-olds, total media time consumed
    on each platform:
    On a TV – 32%
    On a computer – 25%
    That’s 45% combined mobile and computer…I too gravitate to my computer when at home as its a better viewing platform but when on the go my iPhone becomes an extension…a continuation of what I do on my computer, at least media wise…It seems its no different for the younger crowd…(except that daddy pays for it…)
    I also find its inline (proportionaly as I don’t watch much) with my own consumption of tv content as I watch most of it online now. I just can’t stand advertisement anymore…If I see another Pantene ad I am likely to never wash my hair again….and I am pretty sure they enjoy fast forward and pause too.
    Maybe Deloit’s predictions for online advertising is a touch low….We talk of declining traditional media a lot, but seeing numbers like that really brings it home.
    Its a very interesting study, its worth at least a skim through the original…

  10. I agree with Mitch, the researchers need to better define what they mean by media usage and Internet usage. Whether it is active or passive media the numbers are increasing and we need understand how this affects the development of young children. The statistics indicated that kids spend seven hours and 38 minutes per day with electronic media. This is 79 minutes more per day than 10 years ago. What’s interesting is those children studied 10 years ago are now in their 20s and are being criticized for poor writing skills. For example, a recent report blames cell phone texting, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for an increasingly number of post-secondary students who can’t write properly. If there is a positive correlation between electronic media usage and poor writing skills then I suppose we should be worried about kids today. In which case differentiating between active and passive media would be useful in pin pointing the problem. Otherwise I think we should let kids be kids and stop dissecting their electronic media usage.

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