Media Use and Our Children

By: Neil Mufson
Some of you who have read my pieces for a number of years know that I often read, and write about, materials from a group called Common Sense Media, a not-for-profit organization “dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.”  A couple of years ago, the organization commissioned a study entitled “Children’s Media Use,” and I reported on its findings as well as recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding children’s screen usage.  You can find that article here.

Recently, Common Sense Media updated its study and issued a significant report. Entitled “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013,” the report is the result of a significant and statistically reliable piece of research.  I suppose I shouldn’t have found the findings so surprising given the ubiquity of adult use of “smart” devices, but the report reveals the very rapid spread of mobile device use amongst its target population — infants to 8 year-olds.  Here is what was discovered:
  •   Children’s access to mobile devices has seen a five-fold increase since 2011.
  •   75% of all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, have access to a “smart” device in their home.
  •   72% of children 8 and under use mobile devices for some type of activity, ranging from game playing to movie watching, and everything in between.
  •   The percentage of children who use smart mobile devices on a daily basis has more than doubled in the past two years.
  •   The average child who uses smart devices spends triple the amount of time on them than in 2011.
  •   While television remains the dominant form of child screen use, “time spent with ‘traditional’ screen media such as television, DVDs, video games, and computers is down, by more than half an hour a day.”
  •   Children, like adults, are increasingly consuming television content on mobile devices.
Of course little is truly known about the cognitive, developmental, psychological, social, or family impact of the explosive spread of mobile device use amongst our children.  Like with media consumption amongst adults, there are likely to be beneficial as well as detrimental consequences from omnipresent device use.

As parents, though, the first step in deciding what makes sense for our own children and our own families begins with having a sense of how much “smart device” time our own children are spending.

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