New report shows that US teens spend an average of more than seven hours per day on screen media
Let’s be real. If you have tweens or teens in your household, you’re no stranger to blue screens. But brace yourself for some hard data, because a new study by Common Sense Media shows teens are using phones, laptops and other electronic entertainment devices for almost a third of their day.
Tweens don’t fare much better, clocking in at nearly five hours per day of screen time. Naturally, you may be telling yourself that little white lie that we as parents need to hear so we feel better about this statistic: Kids today use phones, laptops, and tablets for educational purposes, too. And okay, sure, that’s a valid point.
However, the new report states that the seven hours for teens and five hours for tweens don’t include schoolwork. Yikes, right?
To arrive at their figures, Common Sense Media studied how more than 1,600 kids age 8 to 18 in the U.S. use media. They examined this behavior across an array of activities and devices to determine how kids spend their time behind screens.
What’s important to note here is that the screen time isn’t necessarily linear. Teens and tweens probably don’t sustain unblinking, unmitigated eye contact with the screens for that full window. Because, c’mon, multi-tasking surely happens.
Another not-so-doom-and-gloomy perspective from the report? Vicky Rideout, the co-author and founder of family media research firm VJR Consulting, pointed to “huge opportunities” inherent in kids’ media usage. “It gives young people the chance to look for resources on information that they’re grappling with and to use apps that help them meditate or sleep, to connect to peers who might be going through similar challenges that they’re going through, to offer support to other people,” Rideout elaborated.
The report also reveals a dramatic increase in smartphone ownership among teens and tweens. For tweens, it comes out to a more than 20 percent spike since 2015. For teens, just under 20 percent more have smartphones. This is why, cautions Rideout, it’s more important than ever to have early conversations with your kids about media literacy.
You might be wondering how your kid could possibly be burning seven hours a day behind the screen. Well, in a word, videos. Tweens spend 53 percent and teens 39 percent of their screen time watching videos online. As you might have guessed, YouTube reigns supreme when it comes to which app young people favor.
Unfortunately, a separate report published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics earlier this week suggests that television viewing is one of the most detrimental screen-time activities when it comes to the effect on kids’ academic performance. The analysis reviewed 58 studies published over the decades. That research found that TV streaming tied with video games for a correlation to poor school performance.
On the plus side, that analysis didn’t turn up any evidence that simply playing on the phone or surfing the internet could wreck your kids’ Ivy League dreams. So, what’s a concerned parent to do? Victor Fornari, vice chairman of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry department at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York told USA Today that it’s time to monitor specific screen activities — singling out and setting limits for the more problematic ones like, for example, binge-watching YouTube videos.
“Parents have to do more,” Fornani said. “They have to be very involved with what kids are doing on their screen time.”