Generation iPod: Young'Uns Spend 53 Hours a Week Consuming Media

By Smriti Rao | January 20, 2010 5:29 pm

teen-on-computerWhen your kid isn’t in class, he/she is probably listening to an iPod, flipping TV channels, or switching between tabs on their computer, which means they may be juggling between Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube–in other words, kids today are staying hyperconnected and wired through their waking hours. That reality is confirmed by a new study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which reveals that if your kids are awake, they’re probably online [The New York Times].

In the third of a series of large-scale national surveys, the Kaiser Foundation study found that kids between the ages of 8-18 years now spend an average of 7 hours, 38 minutes per day using entertainment media. That adds up to more than 53 hours of entertainment consumption in a week. And this does not include the time kids spending texting or talking on their cell phones.

Unsurprisingly, the report says that all this media consumption could be a factor in kids getting lower grades or having behavioral problems. The report notes: “About half (47 percent) of heavy media users say they usually get fair or poor grades (mostly Cs or lower), compared to about a quarter (23 percent) of light users.” Heavy users are the children and teens who devour more than 16 hours of media per day, while light users are those who take in less than 3 hours per day.

The study [also] found that young people’s media consumption grew far more in the last five years than from 1999 to 2004, as sophisticated mobile technology like iPods and smart phones brought media access into teenagers’ pockets and beds [The New York Times]. Blacks and Hispanics, said the study, were the highest consumers of media. When it comes to TV watching, black children spend nearly 6 hours, Hispanics just under 5 1/2 hours, and white youths 3 1/2 hours watching TV each day. According to the report: “The racial disparity in media use has grown substantially over the past five years: for example, the gap between White and Black youth was just over two hours (2:12) in 2004, and has grown to more than four hours today (4:23).”

The report lists the top online activities as social networking, playing games, and visiting video sites such as YouTube. It also revealed that 74 percent of all 7th-12th graders say they have a profile on a social networking site. But if you are a parent, there is no need to despair; your child can still be compelled to go play outside. Kaiser executive Victoria Rideout says that rules can be a game-changer. “I don’t think parents should feel totally disempowered,” she said. “They can still make rules, and it still makes a difference” [The New York Times].

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Image Credit: iStockphoto

  • Nick

    I’m so sick of hearing about things like this.

    As adults, we spend, what, 40 hours a week in front of a computer of some sort at work, then come home and watch tv, play on the internet etc, and we use our phones at the same time.

    As humans, the only instinct we have is mimicry. It’s the only thing babies do automatically (contrary to popular belief, the nipple can take some training to use). In fact, we have a whole subset of neurons dedicated to imitating what we see – they’re called mirror neurons.

    We want our kids to grow up doing what we do but better – and that’s what they’re programmed to do. And all this study here does is prove that they’re doing that – and some of them suck at life too, just like some of us adults.

    Every generation says “Oh. My. God. Look at these kids. They’re CRAZY. Look at that weird sh*t they do all the time! They’re going to ruin the world.” Yet, somehow, here we are living in the future, humanity is doing just as well as it’s always done, and we’ve become our parents, shaking our heads at our kids, wondering what went wrong. But all they’re doing is being better at the modern world than we are.

    They are the future. They are smart, grades be damned.

    I’ve been in front of or near a video screen nearly every day of my life. Most people have. And that technology we’ve created has made us the greatest nation ever. Why freak out about your kids being good at the technology that put us in #1?

    I just don’t get it. But I suppose I’ll find something similar to freak out about in 20 or 30 years when I’ve got kids that are in their teens.

  • James

    I would argue that they are “being better at the modern world”. This younger generation is displaying a trend towards “facts are my opinion”. If they choose not to like what they hear, they decide it isn’t true.

    Also, they expect everything to be delivered to them, rather than they go physically work for it. I see this in my companies interns, or in job interviews. They know what they want to do, and that is al they are doing, regardless of the job requirements.

  • Gwenny

    Thanks, Nick. I feel the same way. The problem, folks, is kids are evolving and education ISN’T . . .public schools are still educating they way they 200 years ago, just with better teaching aids. It’s time to move education into the present! I home schooled my kids. They did most of their work online and my lesson plans followed their interests and current events . . so we did things like deconstruct the US Constitution or study William Wallace. I remember one time the youngest asked at breakfast if there was really a Rasputin (we had just seen Anastasia). I laughed and said, “Go find out. I want 500 words at dinner about him.” I came home from work and he was bouncing around he was so excited. He couldn’t even wait until dinner to tell me everything he had found out. And at dinner we discussed the Bolshevik revolution and a bit of the history of communism.

    I figure eventually grups will figure out that we have passed the time where forcing kids to remember a bunch of crap for a few months so they can regurgitate it for a test is what it means to give them an education. Now we need them to develop the ability to find what they need to know quickly and use their critical thinking skills to spin the knowledge into new ideas.

  • Big mac attack

    Nick- Fat, lazy and surly may work for you, but it is wrong to transfer your own experiences to society at large. Personal computers are the most liberating thing to happen to shackled minds since the printing press, but kids need physical activity too. Seven plus hours on a computer is ridiculous! Because of their fat asses, this is the first generation predicted to die younger than their parents. That’s a fact, it’s not some generational resentment.

  • Dashni

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Gwenny. As I trudge through my HS classes everyday, I find it harder and harder to care. Of course, the new information is always a delight to soak up but I often find I am one of the lone people in the rooms that isn’t just spewing words out to be, in turn, re-spewed back. This gets me so frustrated for two reasons:
    1) What’s the point of school if all people do there is memorize facts that they eventually forget? I’m sure some teachers mean well and wish to get across the significance of fact but with our system, that so easily gets pushed out the window. I understand the vitality of having an environment wherein people have the opportunity to gain skills that open their minds, relish in the company of others who can add to that purpose, and find that which makes their lives meaningful and passionate. But when such a small percentage of our system actually achieves this goal, it really makes our education system look stupid and more ostentatious than substantial.
    2) Facts are fragile. An allegory that comes to mind is one between computers and human minds. They are one of the main resource for facts in our time, no? So what happens if computers cease to exist? The human memory can easily alter and lose these facts. But what stays with us are the ideas, the ability not to learn facts but to deduce from them an understanding for what they signify and teach. We need to teach our students to learn. To be able to look at facts and THINK. On their own. Show them what Curie, Einstein, Leavitt, Angstrom, etc. saw and guide them into seeing what the greats did in their minds’ own ways. This way, we won’t conform a creative, brilliant, thinking–alive, even–body of humans into the mundane way of life that learning can so easily dispel.

  • Angie

    It IS interesting, that white people seem to consume less media than black people or south-american people. Doesn´t that prove, that there is a direct link between an overload of media consumption and the ungrateful role of being an outsider within society? I dare say it does.

    I also suggest to talk a little bit more e.g. to black people. All black people I ever got to know were always nice so far. So why not give them a chance? Those people who are concerned that they might “turn black” if they talk to black people need to realise the following: The colour of your skin isn´t contageous. You won´t receive less job offers in the future just because you suddenly have some black friends now.

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