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Kids and tech: The latest findings

Even the youngest are captivated.
Even the youngest are captivated.
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Seems we’re being overrun and undone by all our gadgets, glued as we are so much of the time to our various screens. Indeed, we barely come up for air anymore, and the same can be said for lots of our kids, too. As Victor Strasburger, a pediatrics professor at the University of New Mexico and co-author of “Children, Adolescents, and the Media” puts it: “They are spending more time with media than they are in school. They are spending more time with media than in any activity other than sleeping. You could make the argument that media have taken over the primary role of teaching kids from schools and parents in many cases.”

A quick glimpse at the numbers tells the tale:

  1. The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day engaged with different media.
  2. Older children and teens spend more than 11 hours a day with various media.
  3. 71% of children and teens report having a television in their bedrooms.
  4. 84% of children and teens are online.
  5. 75% of 12- to 17-year-olds have a cellphone, up from 45% in 2004.
  6. 88% of 12- to 17-year-olds use text messaging.

These findings are borne out in Common Sense Media’s “Zero to Eight” which found that a whopping 72% of children 8 and younger have used a mobile device to play games, watch videos, and/or use apps. That figure stood at 38% in 2011. As for computers, the average start-up age is 3-1/2. Plus …

  • 38% of the under two set have used a mobile device, up from 10% in 2011.
  • About 12% of 2- to 4-year-olds use a computer every day and 24% at least once a week.
  • Among those 5 to 8, 22% use a computer daily, with 46% doing so more than once a week.

As for what these little ones are doing on these devices, the study found that:

  • 63% play games
  • 50% use apps
  • 47% watch videos
  • 8% watch TV/movies

At the same time, television remains a big attention grabber with about 50% of children under two typically watching TV or DVDs for about two hours a day. Among all children under two, the average watch time is 53 minutes a day—more than twice the 23 minutes they are read to on a daily basis.

Add to that the hours our TVs keep us company during the day as we go about our daily routines. The average child is exposed to such “background television” for about four hours a day, and that pales in comparison to the 5.5 hours for those 8 to 24 months. About that, Matthew Lapierre, co-author of a study on the subject, says, “Background television exposure has been linked to lower sustained attention during playtime, lower quality parent-child interactions, and reduced performance on cognitive tasks.”

No wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids engage in two hours or less a day of screen time and zip for the under two set. Unfortunately, it seems too few are paying attention anymore.