Children And Electronic Entertainment Media

February 8, 2010

The amount of time school age children spend with electronic entertainment media, such as iPods, mobile phones, digital audio players, TVs and computer games, has risen dramatically in recent years, a new report concludes.

Research by US welfare institute the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, has found that youngsters with the ages between 8 and 18 years now spend almost every waking minute outside school using some kind of electronic device. In particular, kids spend an average of 7 hours 38 minutes a day using 'entertainment media,' while at the same time they spend less than 30 minutes a day reading. And what is very interesting, because youngsters spend so much of that time 'media multitasking', they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those seven and a half hours.

The investigators, who interviewed more than 2,000 young people, also revealed that the children spend an average of 1 hour 35 minutes a day sending or receiving text messages, while girls are more prone to use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, spending 25 minutes a day on the sites compared to boys who spend 19 minutes per day using social network sites.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation report, there has been a dramatic increase in the time children spend using electrical gadgets in the past 5 years, an increase of 1 hour 17 minutes since 2004. And the main reason for this is that portable devices have revolutionized the way children access television programs, films and music, said the report.

Michele Elliott, a child psychologist and founder of the child welfare charity Kidscape, said that parents must limit the amount of time young children use electronic media. According to Elliott, when kids are using these devices they are not communicating or interacting with anyone else in person. They may be very good at writing text messages, but the question is how will they do when they have to meet someone face to face.

While the new research cannot establish a cause and effect relationship between electronic entertainment media use and children's school grades, there are differences between heavy and light media users in this regard. About 47 per cent of heavy media users reported that they usually get fair or poor grades (mostly Cs or lower), when compared to about 23 per cent of light users. These differences may or may not be influenced by their media use patterns. (Heavy users represent the 21 per cent of young people who are using media for more than 16 hours a day, and light users are the 17 per cent of young people who consume less than three hours of media a day.)

Tags: Parenting and Families

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