A new report out yesterday from Common Sense Media has some key takeaways for those interested in children’s changing use of electronic media both for educational and other purposes.
- Screen time is down. Focusing on the youngest children, zero to eight, the report found a significant downtick in the cumulative use of all electronic media, from an average of two hours and 16 minutes per day to 1:55. Media time was down in all categories except mobile. What it means: After the discrediting of Baby Einstein and endless debates about apps for kids, maybe parents are absorbing the message that less screen time is better.
- TV is still king. The regular old boob tube accounts for almost half of all time spent with screens, nearly an hour a day for these very young kids. Over a third of kids (still) have TVs in their bedrooms. Six of ten kids watch it every day, compared with only 6 percent who play video games every day. What it means: There’s good news and bad news within this statistic. The bad news is that if an hour a day of passive viewing of video content seems like a lot, consider that that number doesn’t include DVDs (another 22 minutes a day). The good news is that 32% of the TV viewing is time-shifted, via DVR, streaming, or on-demand, which potentially means less exposure to commercials.
- The “app gap” is closing, but is still large. There’s been little improvement over the last two years in access to high-speed Internet by low-income families. But access to smartphones and tablets is growing across income levels. In 2011 just 22% of low-income kids had ever used a mobile device and today that number is 65%. What it means: It’s hard to expand the potential of interactive media to offer opportunity for all if we don’t connect kids at home and at school.
- Mobile use is growing fast from a small base. Total time spent on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets has tripled in just two years. Even among the youngest tots, under 2, 38% have used a mobile device at least once, compared to 10% two years ago. In the educational category, mobile use is now matching computer use. What it means: Clearly the size and versatility of these devices is captivating both kids and parents, many of whom (31%) give the devices to kids to occupy while running errands.
- In educational media, again, TV is king. It’s been 44 years since the debut of Sesame Street and television is still the cutting edge when it comes to educational media, especially for low-income households. Sixty-one percent often or sometimes watch purportedly “educational” TV. On the other hand, higher-income kids are dramatically more likely to use educational apps on mobile: 54% vs. 28% for lower-income kids. What it means: The pace of change is often slower than we think.