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Report Finds Young People Spend Nearly Eight Hours a Day Using Entertainment Media

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“The amount of time young people spend with media has grown to where it’s even more than a full-time work week.”

A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that youth aged eight to eighteen spend an average of seven hours and thirty-eight minutes using entertainment media during a typical day, an increase of more than one hour since 2004. The report, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, also finds that the number grows to ten hours and forty-five minutes when “media multitasking,” or using more than one medium at a time, is taken into consideration.

“The amount of time young people spend with media has grown to where it’s even more than a full-time work week,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “When children are spending this much time doing anything, we need to understand how it’s affecting them—for good and bad.”

The report attributes the increase in media use to ready access to mobile devices like cell phones and iPods. And while access has increased, parental control seems to have declined. In 2004, about half (46 percent) of eight- to eighteen-year-olds said that their parents set limits on the amount of television they watched. However, in the 2009 survey, only 28 percent of young people said they have rules on how much time they can watch TV. The report finds that when parents do set limits, children spend less time with media. In fact, those with any media rules consume nearly three hours less media per day.

When surveyed about their grades, about half (47 percent) of heavy media users (young people who consume more than sixteen hours of media a day) said they usually get fair-to-poor grades (mostly “C”s or lower). Conversely, only about one quarter (23 percent) of light media users (young people who consume less than three hours of media a day) said they get fair-to-poor grades.

The report also finds that black and Hispanic children tend to spend far more time with media than white children. On average, black and Hispanic children consume nearly four and a half more hours of media daily than white children. The difference in television viewing was especially dramatic, with black and Hispanic children spending nearly six hours and five and a half hours watching television, respectively, compared to about three and a half hours for white children. “The racial disparity in media use has grown substantially over the past five years,” the report notes. “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 complete report is available at http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/8010.pdf.

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