Research confirms what parents of teenagers already know, suspect or even fear. What the Kaiser Family Foundation refers to as “Generation M2” in its recent report, 8- to 18-year-olds spend dramatically more time consuming media daily than they did only five years ago. And contrary to what most parents would say, kids themselves say they have no rules about how much time they can spend with TV, video games or computers. It seems it is precisely the big increase in mobile media that has helped drive a dramatic increase in youth consumption. In other words, it’s harder to supervise mobile use than computer or TV access, and kids know it. Cells go to school, the bedroom and any place private. And mobile ubiquity gives Generation M2 nearly 24-hour media access.
Today’s 8- to 18-year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day, and more than 53 hours a week. And because they spend so much of that time using more than one medium at a time, they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into that time. These figures reflect an increase from five years ago of an hour and 17 minutes a day, with content viewed up from nearly eight and a half hours in 2004.
The huge increase in ownership among this generation, from 39 percent to 66 percent for cell phones and from 18 percent to 76 percent for iPods and other MP3 players, is exacerbated by the fact that cell phones and iPods have become true multimedia devices. Young people now spend more time listening to music, playing games and watching TV on their cell phones (a total of 49 minutes daily) than they spend talking on them (33 minutes).
For the first time over the course of Kaiser’s study, time spent watching regularly scheduled TV declined by 25 minutes a day. But the many new ways to watch TV — on the Internet, cell phones and iPods — actually led to an increase in total TV consumption from three hours and 51 minutes to four hours and 29 minutes per day.
“The amount of time young people spend with media has grown to where it’s even more than a full-time work week. When children are spending this much time doing anything, we need to understand how it’s affecting them for good and bad,” said Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation president and CEO.
Although only about three in 10 young people say they have rules about how much time they can spend watching TV (28 percent) or playing video games (30 percent), and 36 percent say the same about using the computer, when parents do set limits, children spend less time with media, consuming nearly three hours less media per day than those with no rules.