A recent report by non-profit organization Common Sense Media has highlighted the significant amount of time American children spend on digital devices. The report states that American teenagers spend an average of nine hours a day on digital technology, including streaming video, playing games, and listening to music. This figure is particularly noteworthy given that tweens, aged 8 to 12, also spend an average of six hours a day on digital media, in addition to using it for homework.
This five-year update on kids’ use of media reveals that the amount of time children spend on digital devices continues to be a cause for concern. The sheer volume of media and technology that American kids spend time with is described as “absolutely mind-boggling” by James Steyer, CEO, and founder of Common Sense Media. He goes on to note that this level of consumption means that children “are literally living in a 24/7 media and technology world.”
Furthermore, the report emphasizes that American children spend more time with digital media and technology than they do with their parents, time in school, or any other activity. The fact that tweens and teenagers in the United States spend an average of six to nine hours with media every day is still astounding, according to the report.
The statistics provided in the report serve as a reminder of the need for parents and caregivers to be aware of their children’s screen time and encourage a healthy balance between digital devices and other activities. As technology continues to play an increasingly prominent role in our lives, it is essential to monitor its impact on the younger generation and ensure that children develop healthy habits that will benefit them in the long term.
Common Sense Media conducted a survey of 2,658 children aged between 8 and 18 years old in February and March to obtain data for its report. The study aims to represent children across the United States. The report highlights that American teenagers, aged between 13 and 18, spend an average of nine hours per day engaged in entertainment media activities, excluding time spent at school or doing homework. Meanwhile, tweens aged 8 to 12 years old spend an average of six hours per day with entertainment media.
Most of this media consumption, roughly 4.5 hours for tweens and almost seven hours for teenagers, is screen time. This prolonged use of screens is concerning, particularly as it is often accompanied by multitasking, which can negatively affect academic performance.
The report notes that two-thirds of teenagers believe they can multitask while doing homework, but evidence suggests that this simply isn’t effective. By attempting to multitask, children may be interrupting their thought processes and compromising their ability to concentrate and synthesize information. This behaviour is not unique to teenagers but also extends to adults who frequently switch between social media and work-related tasks.
Steyer suggests that schools may be enabling counterproductive behaviour by encouraging the use of computers, but it is important to teach children how to focus on the learning process and not constantly switch between different digital activities. While technology can be an excellent learning tool when used wisely, it is essential to encourage children to prioritize their education and develop good habits that will benefit them in the long run.
According to the report, there is an ironic downside to the massive amount of time children spend with technology, as it may hinder their ability to communicate effectively. Steyer emphasizes that there is no substitute for face-to-face communication when it comes to understanding emotions and empathy and truly connecting with others.
The CEO of Common Sense Media believes that texting and other digital communication methods are impersonal and can negatively impact intimacy, empathy, and other fundamental aspects of human communication. While technology can facilitate communication, it should not replace the vital role of in-person interaction. Steyer adds that even the old-fashioned telephone is preferable to texting or email, as it allows one to discern the emotion behind a person’s words.
In addition, the report highlights that traditional forms of media continue to be popular among children. Two-thirds of tweens watch television every day, while two-thirds of teens listen to music daily. Despite the prevalence of new technology, it seems that television and music still play a crucial role in children’s daily lives.
According to the report, a significant portion of the time that teenagers spend on their digital devices is passive, with 39 percent of the time spent on computers, tablets, and smartphones being used for passive activities, such as watching a video. Additionally, 26 percent of their time is spent on communication, 25 percent on interactive use, and only 3 percent on creating content.
The report also reveals gender differences in technology use. It indicates that teen boys spend an average of 56 minutes a day playing video games, while girls only spend an average of seven minutes on this activity. However, girls spend about 40 minutes more than boys on average with social media.
The study also identifies socioeconomic and ethnic disparities in technology use. Teens from lower-income households spend more than eight hours a day with screen media, compared to higher-income teens who spend an average of 5 hours and 42 minutes per day.
Despite spending a significant amount of time on social media, both teens and tweens admitted that it was not their favourite activity, but something they felt they had to do to keep up with their peers.
Additionally, the report suggests that the next generation may spend even more time with their devices than previous generations. A separate report released on Monday revealed that even babies are spending time with devices such as tablet computers and smartphones.
Furthermore, the report highlights how technology may be negatively impacting communication skills among children. The report concludes that despite the convenience of digital communication, face-to-face communication is still the most effective way to understand emotions and empathy, which are essential elements of human communication.
In the digital age, seeking help for mental health issues has become more accessible with the rise of online therapy and telehealth services. This is especially important for children and teenagers who spend a significant amount of time engaging with digital media. The ease and convenience of accessing mental health services online can encourage more young people to seek help and support for their emotional and mental wellbeing. With the increased use of digital media, it’s important for parents to be aware of the impact it can have on their children’s mental health and consider utilizing online therapy and telehealth services to help mitigate the negative effects of excessive screen time.
In conclusion, the Common Sense Media report highlights the astounding amount of time that American children, particularly teens and tweens, spend on digital technology each day. The report raises concerns about the potential negative impact of excessive screen time on children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. However, it also acknowledges the importance of digital technology as a learning tool, especially during the pandemic. As technology continues to play an increasingly prominent role in our lives, it is essential to strike a balance between its benefits and potential harm. Parents, educators, and policymakers need to work together to ensure that children use digital technology in a responsible, safe, and healthy way. Seeking help through online telehealth or therapy can be a useful way to address any concerns related to excessive screen time and to promote healthy technology use. Ultimately, it is crucial to be mindful of the impact of technology on children’s well-being and to take proactive steps to ensure that children develop healthy habits that will serve them well throughout their lives.