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They Say – Kids Using Media During Most Waking Hours

959695_40143899It’s 10 o’clock, do you know where your 8 to 18-year-old is?  According to a new study, you’ll probably find him or her online.

In 2005, the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded that kids’ use of entertainment media had hit a ceiling.  There just weren’t any more hours in a day for kids to be using technology, they said.  So researchers were shocked to discover in a recent survey that media usage among kids has actually increased by an hour a day in the last five years.

The New York Times already did the math for us.  If you’re kids aren’t in school or sleeping, chances are they’re using some sort of entertainment media.

In fact, the Kaiser survey found that when multitasking is added to the equation — listen to music on an iPod while surfing the web, for instance — using technology is a full-time job for kids, up to 10 hours, 45 minutes total media exposure a day.

Other findings include:

  • Cell phone and iPod ownership by this age group has gone up significantly, contributing to the increase in usage.
  • Nearly 3/4 of kids report having a TV in their bedroom, while nearly half of children report that a TV is always on at home.  Two thirds say the TV is on during mealtime.
  • Heavy media users are more likely to have low average to poor grades, but it’s unclear whether media use causes health or behavioral problems or whether those problems cause higher than average media use.
  • Black and Hispanic children use media, especially TV, more than their peers in other ethnic and racial groups.
  • Kids still read books about a half hour a day, but are reading fewer magazines and newspapers.
  • Middle and high schoolers spend an average of an hour and a half a day sending texts.

In fact, says Children’s Hospital Boston pediatrician Dr. Michael Rich in an interview with the Times, it’s no longer reasonable to ask whether or not this attachment to technology is good or bad for kids because it’s “like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.”

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

The Kaiser survey found that when parents do set rules — any rules, in fact — about children’s use of entertainment media, kids use about three hours less per day.  But only three in 10 parents report setting rules about media at all.

Do these findings surprise or alarm you?  And if you set rules at home for media usage, what are they?

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