How families use media and what it means for kids’ health and well-being is the subject of Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, the first study by Common Sense Media’s new Program for the Study of Children and Media, released late last month.
The study shows that everything from iPods to smartphones to tablet computers are now a regular part of kids’ lives, with kids under 8 averaging two hours a day with all screen media. Among the key findings:
- 42% of children under 8 years old have a television in their bedroom.
- Half (52%) of all 0- to 8-year-olds have access to a new mobile device, such as a smartphone, video iPod, or iPad/tablet.
- More than a third (38%) of children this age have used one of these devices, including 10% of 0-to 1-year-olds, 39% of 2- to 4-year-olds, and more than half (52%) of 5- to 8-year-olds.
- In a typical day, one in 10 (11%) 0- to 8-year-olds uses a smartphone, video iPod, iPad, or similar device to play games, watch videos, or use other apps. Those who do such activities spend an average of 43 minutes a day doing so.
- In addition to the traditional digital divide, a new “app gap” has developed, with only 14% of lower-income parents having downloaded new media apps for their kids to use, compared to 47% of upper-income parents.
What troubles me most in the results of this study is the pervasive exposure to media for under-2’s, contrary to the recommendations of pediatricians and the increasing digital divide that limits the opportunities to use the best of what is available to kids who already have greater access to traditional resources.
I agree with the recommendations of Common Sense Media:
- Balance the types of media your kids are exposed to.
- Choose age-appropriate, quality content that reinforces your family’s values.
- Watch, play, read, and listen with your kids. Don’t underestimate the value of co-viewing.