Kids and Media
The Kaiser Family Foundation has just released their latest report on kids and media consumption Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year Olds. A lot has been made in media reports about the staggering increase in the amount of ‘screen time’ among our adolescents over the past ten years. Whether it be on TV, computer screens, or on portable devices such as cell phones or media players–kids are consuming a lot of electronic media, some 7.3 hours a day. While it may seem natural to find this shocking and have those of us who didn’t grow up so plugged-in, there is a lot to be learned from examining some of the study’s other findings. Two that we found to be quite interesting is 1) the role of parental controls/ household attitudes and 2) kids as multitasking consumers except when reading print media (good old fashioned books and magazines).
The study found that there when parents send a message that there are limits to where or when kids have access to media that there is a reduction to the time spent in front of the screen. “Children who live in homes that limit media opportunities spend less time with media. For example, kids whose parents who don’t put a TV in their bedroom, don’t leave the TV on during meals or in the background when no one is watching, or spend substantially less time with media than do children with more media-lenient parents.” Personally, we believe that making TV or other electronic media consumption a private activity instead of a shared family entertainment means that you are giving up the opportunity to discuss what is being watched–either to spur discussion so you can weigh in on the messages presented to your kids or to share fun with your family which only helps to bring you closer. A TV or computer in the bedroom takes the parent out of the equation.
Another interesting finding in the study is that when kids are reading books and magazines they tend to turn off the other media. Even when playing videogames, kids are often listening to music, chatting online or watching TV–69% say that they do this at least some of the time. “Print media are among the least multitasked of all the various media. That is, when young people do sit down to read print materials, they are less likely to also be keeping an eye on the TV or listening to music than they are when they use most other types of media.” We can all remember the thrill of losing oneself in the universe of a book. We can encourage the young people in our life to learn to quiet the outside distractions and enjoy what for them is a relatively rare indulgence–some time away from their screens.
If you are a parent, grandparent, a teacher or just someone interested in our youngest citizens–we strongly recommend reading this important study–not just the headlines.