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US teens use 9 hours of media per day

November 4, 2015

A report released by Common Sense Media finds that teenagers (ages 13-18) use an average of nine hours of entertainment media per day and that tweens (ages 8-12) use an average of six hours a day, not including time spent using media for school or homework.

Despite the significant amount of time teens and tweens spend with media, not all young people use media in the same way. The study, Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, found that race, class and gender all play a role in how kids are likely to consume media. The report identifies a significant digital equality gap between low-income kids who are far less likely to have access to computers, tablets and smartphones than their wealthier peers. However, those low-income kids who do have access are more likely to spend more time on their devices than kids from more affluent families.

The report also finds major differences in media preferences between boys and girls. For example, teen boys average 56 minutes a day playing video games, compared to girls’ 7 minutes and teen girls spend 40 minutes more a day than boys on social media (1:32 vs. 52 minutes).

While many of the newer entertainment media formats like online videos, mobile gaming and social media have become quite popular, watching TV and listening to music continue to be the media activities tweens and teens enjoy the most and do most often.  But in many cases, “old” media are being consumed in “new” ways. In fact, mobile devices now account for 41 per cent of all screen time among tweens, and 46 per cent among teens.

“Our world is changing and kids are spending a lot of time with media – and they are doing it in a variety of ways and on many platforms,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media.  “The census really sheds light on how different media use is for different kids – from boys to girls, low income to more affluent, and kids from all ethnic backgrounds.  There are a lot of ways media use can be educational and beneficial for our kids, from learning apps and web sites to creating content. The media use census provides parents, educators and the media industry with an excellent overview of what kids are doing today and how we can make the most of the media and technology in their lives.”

Other key findings:
•    There is wide diversity in screen media use: In any given day, 34 per cent of tweens and 23 per cent of teens spend 2 hours or less with screen media, while 11 per cent of tweens and 26 per cent of teens spend more than 8 hours with screens.  Overall, tweens average more than 4.5 hours (4:36) of screen media and teens more than 6.5 hours (6:40) of screen media a day.
•    On average among teens 39 per cent of digital screen time (computers, tablets, and smartphones) is devoted to passive consumption (watching, listening, or reading), 25 per cent to interactive content (playing games, browsing the web), 26 per cent to communication (social media, video-chatting), and 3 per cent to content creation (writing, coding, or making digital art or music).
•    TV is the media activity tweens engage in most often (62 per cent do so “every day”); teens listen to music most often (66 per cent “every day”).
•    Social media is an integral part of most teens’ lives (45 per cent use “every day”), but it lags behind use of music (66 per cent) and TV (58 per cent). Only 36 per cent of teens say they enjoy using social media “a lot” compared to 73 per cent who enjoy listening to music “a lot,” and 45 per cent watching TV.
•    Tweens and teens from low-income families have far less access to computers, tablets and smartphones.  For example, 92 per cent of higher-income teens (family income >$100,000/year) have a laptop in their home, compared to 54 per cent of lower-income teens (<$35,000/year).
•    Black youth report spending substantially more time with media than white or Hispanic youth.  For example, among teens, blacks use an average of 11:10 worth of media a day, compared to 8:51 among Hispanics and 8:27 among whites (a difference of 2:19 between blacks and Hispanics, and 2:43 between blacks and whites).

“The diversity of media use patterns among youth is astounding,” said report author Vicky Rideout, senior consultant to Common Sense Media, “but it’s interesting to see that through it all TV and music continue to be the media of choice – and that social networking lags significantly behind.”

The study finds that devices are finding their way into study time for teens and tweens. Notably, at least half of teens say they often or sometimes watch TV (51 per cent), use social networking (50 per cent), text (60 per cent) and listen to music (76 per cent) while doing homework.

“As a parent and an educator, there’s clearly more work to be done around the issue of multi-tasking,” said Steyer. “Nearly two-thirds of teens today tell us they don’t think watching TV or texting while doing homework makes any difference to their ability to study and learn, even though there’s more and more research to the contrary.”

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