Kids Spend More Time Consuming Entertainment Media Than You Do Working

Though it likely doesn't come as a huge shock to anyone, the amount of time that 8- to 18-year-olds spend engrossed in entertainment media of some sort or another — TV, music, Internet, video games, movies and even (GASP!) print — has increased dramatically over the past five years.

In fact, on average, the young'uns are spending as much time focusing on entertainment daily as the average adult does at work. Even more, if you consider the average work week is just five days, while this is spread over seven days, the Kaiser Family Foundation found in its most recent study.

Here's a quick breakdown of some of the key findings:
  • 7 hours and 38 minutes: Amount of time devoted to entertainment media on a typical day (in 2004, that number was only 6 hours and 31 minutes)
  • 53 hours: Time spent in an average week.
  • 10 hours and 45 minutes: actual amount of  content consumed in the average day, as the subjects tended to "media multitask" often, meaning they might be on the computer while watching television or listening to music

If you do the math, these pre-teens, tweens and teens are, on average, consuming somewhere in the vicinity of 75 hours of media a week.

Mobile devices such as iPods and smartphones are the prime culprit in this increased consumption, as even television watching is no longer confined to the home.

From the study, here are some other interesting findings:
  • Reading.  Over the past 5 years, time spent reading books remained steady at about :25 a day, but time with magazines and newspapers dropped (from :14 to :09 for magazines, and from :06 to :03 for newspapers).  The proportion of young people who read a newspaper in a typical day dropped from 42% in 1999 to 23% in 2009.  On the other hand, young people now spend an average of :02 a day reading magazines or newspapers online.
  • Media and homework.  About half of young people say they use media either "most" (31%) or "some" (25%) of the time they’re doing their homework.
  • Rules about media content.  Fewer than half of all 8- to 18-year-olds say they have rules about what TV shows they can watch (46%), video games they can play (30%), or music they’re allowed to listen to (26%).  Half (52%) say they have rules about what they can do on the computer.
  • Gender gap.  Girls spend more time than boys using social networking sites (:25 vs. :19), listening to music (2:33 vs. 2:06), and reading (:43 vs. :33).  Boys spend more time than girls playing console video games (:56 vs.: 14), computer games (:25 vs. :08), and going to video websites like YouTube (:17 vs. :12).
  • Tweens and media.  Media use increases substantially when children hit the 11-14 year-old age group, an increase of 1:22 with TV content, 1:14 with music, 1:00 using the computer, and :24 playing video games, for total media exposure of 11:53 per day (vs. 7:51 for 8-10 year-olds). 

And, although the study didn't establish causality, it did note that the more media used, the lower the user's grades. Heavy users - consuming more than 16 hours of entertainment a day, 21 percent of the study subjects - said they usually got mostly Cs or worse. The light users accounted for 17 percent of the study subjects and consume less than three hours a day and reported better grades. Take from that what you will.

The survey was conducted between October 2008 and May 2009 among 2,002 students in third through 12th grades. The students completed surveys in school. Media use for school research was not included in the figures above, and time spent on the phone or texting also was not accounted for in the report.

You can download the full PDF here.

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