New Data Reveal How Dominant Screen Time Is In Kids’ Lives

The new guidelines on screen time offered by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) take as a premise that media use is “dominant” in kids’ lives. A new report issued by Common Sense Media provides detailed survey data which certainly supports this claim. Vicky Rideout, who directed the research, suggests that we are seeing an extraordinary growth in media use in general over the past two years – driven in particular by mobile devices. Consider some of these key findings as reported by Common Sense Media:

•   In 2013, 75% of kids have access to mobile devices at home, up from 52%.

•   Smartphones are still the most common device (63%, up from 41%), but tablet ownership is 5 times higher (8% to 40%). 

•   The number of kids who’ve used mobile devices has nearly doubled (38% to 72%); and average daily use of mobile devices has tripled, from 5 to 15 minutes a day.

•   As many little babies and one-year-olds have used smartphones or tablets today as all kids under eight had done just two years ago (38%).

So what can we learn from these data – and what can parents do to make sure they are providing good guidance for their kids? Caroline Knorr, Parenting Editor at Common Sense Media, shared these insights and suggestions:

The report shows that families love mobile devices. There has been a five-fold increase in ownership of tablet devices since 2011. That means choosing high-quality, age-appropriate apps is more important than ever. Don’t treat app downloads as an impulse purchase – do your research to find the best ones that will really engage your kids in learning, thinking, and other skills. Common Sense Media offers reviews and ratings for parents – and while there are tons of apps in the app store, only a handful earn Common Sense Media’s four and five star ratings.Here’s a link to our Preschool Prep app reccommended list:

http://www.commonsensemedia.org/mobile-app-lists/learning-tools-preschool-prep

Kids really love mobile devices. Almost twice as many children have used mobile media compared to two years ago. That means it’s easier for parents to enjoy media WITH their kids — anywhere they are — instead of plopping them down in front of a stationary computer and not knowing what they’re doing. Take advantage of mobile device’s flexibility in allowing positive media experiences to happen with your kids where ever you happen to be.  But along with that there’s a responsibility to make sure that kids aren’t OVER-using screens (and that you aren’t relying on devices as a babysitter, say in the car or in restaurants). Remember to balance kids’ days with a variety of experiences that promote healthy development. Allow them to develop the skills to self-soothe, be patient, and not have to be entertained 24/7. Here’s a link to Learn to Read apps:

http://www.commonsensemedia.org/mobile-app-lists/learn-to-read

TV is still king and families love to “time-shift.” Kids love TV – in fact, it is the dominant delivery system for educational content. Take advantage of “time-shifting” functions like your DVR, On Demand, and even streaming shows. Dig through the vast amount of offerings to find entertaining, educational shows – including all of the older shows you may have enjoyed as a kid and are offered by a lot of these services.  These allow parents to make quality choices mindfully – rather than just letting one TV show flow into the next – and expose kids to a wider variety of content. They also allow you to reduce kids’ exposure to commercials. Here’s a link to classic streaming TV shows: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-lists/classic-streaming-tv-shows

Overall, parents should really think hard about these data, and develop a systematic approach to monitoring and structuring their kids’ screen time. Resources like Common Sense Media can offer a variety of tools to support that.

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