It’s 10 p.m. Do you know whom your kid is texting?

An article by Liz Perle on CommonSense.org, The Side Effects of Media, discusses a Kaiser Family Foundation report called Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.

Perle, citing the report, points out:

  • Over the past 5 years, there has been a huge increase in media use – from nearly 6 1/2 hours to more than 7 1/2 hours today
  • Due to multitasking, kids pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content into those 7 1/2 hours. Kids ages 8-18 spend more time with media than they do with their parents or in school.
  • Mobile and online media fuel these huge increases in media use
  • Three groups stand out for their high levels of consumption: preteens, African Americans, and Hispanics
  • Kids who spend more time with media report lower grades and lower levels of personal contentment
  • Parental involvement matters: Children whose parents set rules or limited access spent less time with media than their peers

Seven and a half hours a day almost equals the amount of time most adults spend at work. But these children consume media seven days a week, not five. During that 7.5 hours per day, the time they spend reading magazines dropped from 14 to nine minutes; reading newspapers dropped from six minutes to three.

Kaiser found: “Today the typical 8- to 18-year-old’s home contains an average of 3.8 TVs, 2.8 DVD or VCR players, 1 digital video recorder, 2.2 CD players, 2.5 radios, 2 computers, and 2.3 console video game players. Except for radios and CD players, there has been a steady increase in the number of media platforms in young people’s homes over the past 10 years (with the advent of the MP3 player, the number of radios and CD players has actually declined in recent years).”

Much of that media is moving into the bedroom, according to Kaiser. Kids report spending more time watching TV than using any other medium. Among 7th–12th graders, about four in ten (39%) say they multitask with another medium “most of the time” they are watching TV.

The researchers also say that in a typical day, 46% of 8- to 18-year‑olds report sending text messages on a cell phone. Those who do text estimate that they send an average of 118 messages in a typical day. On average, 7th–12th graders report spending about an hour and a half (1:35) engaged in sending and receiving texts.

But that’s not the only thing kids use smartphones for. Smartphones are rapidly becoming a media-delivery platform for this age group. Older teens report spending more than an hour a day consuming media via the cell phone alone (:23 for music, :22 for games, :22 for TV).

My take: These findings suggest that young Americans spend more time consuming media than they do eating, sleeping, or going to school. When I was growing up, the term “conspicuous consumption” referred to the clothes, cars and other things people bought to flaunt their wealth. One might say that among today’s youth, conspicuous consumption refers to the increasing ways that people devour information from smartphones. Seriously, parents need to set some limits for kids and teach them about media, just as they would teach them to drive. In the personal essay section of this blog, I describe (in sometimes painful detail) how different media can sometimes skew the way people make life-altering decisions.

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