Welcome to the Gadget Generation. American teens and preteens spend a whopping seven and a half hours a day staring at electronic entertainment devices, according to a new study.
Over the past five years, kids have tacked on an additional hour and seventeen minutes a day using electronics. And if you consider multitasking -- let's say IMing your friend while you surf the net while you listen to your iPod -- kids are packing a whopping 10 hours and 45 minutes a day of media time into those seven and a half hours, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. To put these numbers in perspective, kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend more than 52 hours a day looking at an electronic device.
"The amount of time young people spend with media has grown to where it's even more than a full-time work week," Drew Altman, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said. "When children are spending this much time doing anything, we need to understand how it's affecting them -- for good and bad."
Some of the findings about household behaviors are especially startling. For example, 64 percent of kids say the TV is usually on during meals, and 45 percent say the TV is on "most of the time," even if no one is watching. Surprise, surprise, but kids who spend less time in front of a TV or on the computer do better at school.
"The bottom line is that all these advances in media technologies are making it even easier for young people to spend more and more time with media," Victoria Rideout, Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of the study, said in a statement.
Here's a thought: limit the time your kids spend staring at a computer screen or television.
Surprisingly, not many parents think to do that. Only about three in ten kids say their parents have rules about how much time they can spend in front of the TV, a video game, or on the computer. But when parents do lay down the law, the electronics turn off. Kids with any rules at all consume nearly three fewer hours of media a day than those without rules.
What I find amazing in all this is how kids manage to pack nearly eight hours of media time into their day. Presumably, they're at school for about seven hours a day, so they must be texting and surfing the Web on their smart phones while they're there, and then coming home and getting back on the computer again.
I find these numbers sad. After all, once these kids grow up, they'll likely spend eight to 10 hours a day in an office staring at a computer screen. It would be nice to think that at least in childhood, they could have a few years where they're not connected to a console.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|