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Report: Children do consume more media

If you think kids are using more tech than ever before, you’re not alone. Yes, they are.

This includes dramatic shifts in their media uses over the last four years.

According to a new report published by Common Sense Media, teen and tween media has shifted greatly since 2015.

Findings show changes in different types of tech and media activities in two age groups: 8- to 12-year-olds (or “tweens”) and 13- to 18-year-olds (“teens”).

All types of media were examined, including reading books in print and listening to the radio to using social media, watching online videos, using smartphones and apps, and playing mobile games.

Of course, this information is important for parents and caregivers concerned with the increase in their kids’ technology use and media consumption.

More tech and media use means our children are seeing more messages (e.g., advertisements, propaganda). And this constant bombardment of messages can impact their sense of self-identity, social awareness, health, and access to “accurate” news and information.

This was one of the first studies to take a more holistic view of the “types” of tech used by teens and tweens. For example, survey items ranged from questions about television sets and video game consoles to uses of virtual reality headsets and smart speakers.

“The biggest change in young people’s media habits over the past four years isn’t something brand new like virtual reality,” said report authors Victoria Rideout and Michael Robb.” It’s the amount of time they spend watching online videos like those found on YouTube.”

Kids who say they watch online videos “every day” has more than doubled in both age groups, going from 24 percent to 56 percent for tweens, and from 34 percent to 69 percent for teens.

“The amount of time each age group spends watching online videos has gone from about a half hour a day to about an hour a day on average,” Rideout and Rodd added.

That’s a jump of 25 to 56 minutes per day for tweens, and from 35 to 59 minutes for teens.

Other large four-year shifts revealed in the “Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2019” report:

l Smartphone ownership has grown substantially among all ages, from 24 percent to 41 percent for tweens, 67 percent to 84 percent for teens. One in five 8-year-olds now have their own smartphones.

l Tweens and teens watch about a half hour less of TV on a TV set today than they did four years ago. This suggests there might also be a drop in co-viewing time (watching TV content together as a family).

l Computer use for homework has increased, from 11 percent to 27 percent for tweens, and 29 percent to 59 percent for teens.

Two areas with little change: entertainment screen time (including online video viewing) and social media use.

Tweens continue to use just under five hours of “entertainment” screen media per day, and teens use just under seven and a half hours per day.

“The average amount of time teens report spending with social media each day has remained nearly exactly the same,” Rideout and Robb reported, “although the proportion who say they use it ‘every day’ has increased from 45 percent in 2015 to 63 percent in 2019.”

You can access key findings and the full report by signing up for a free account at Common Sense Media.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn .com.