How much screen time is your kid really getting?

A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids between the ages of 8 to 18 are spending more than 53 hours a week (7:38 hours/day) using entertainment media. Ten years ago, that figure was 43 hours a week.

Other key findings as summarized to nicely by The Washington Post:

“ — Television still dominates among young people, followed by music, computers and video games. TV watched online and over phones has contributed to television viewing.

– Kids spend 38 minutes a day reading a print publication, compared to 43 minutes a day 10 years ago.

– When parents want to restrict or reduce media use, they can. But few parents enforce the rules they set.

– Nearly half of all heavy users of media platforms have C grades or lower, compared with 23 percent of light users.

– The biggest users of media are black and Hispanic youths in their early teen years”

One interesting part of the study found that kids are so good at multi-tasking between their technologies that their usage time is in reality more like 10 hours and 45 minutes a day than 7.38.

OK so now think about it truly: How much time are they spending on their smart phones, the computer, the TV, the video games, hand-held video games, hand-held TV, TV in the car  …

I don’t think Rose gets more than one to two hours a day at the most because I have to pull her away to do homework. I think because Walsh’s homework isn’t daily but sent home on the weekend I let him play on the computer far longer than he should. He’s on probably two to three hours a day. I often let him play while I’m working on homework with Rose or making dinner.

How are you setting limits? How are you enforcing those limits? Do you think their grades have dropped as the study indicates?

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cld

January 21st, 2010
8:07 am

We aren’t quite there yet. At only one-and-a-half, our son isn’t getting daily screen time. I take that back: he probably is. His daycare class watches “Your Baby Can Read” and the occasional Elmo or Barney video. By the time he gets home, we only have 1.5 hours before it’s time to get ready for bed – so it’s playtime, not TV time!

I think TVs in cars have contributed to increased screen time also. I know so many parents who turn on the car TV as soon as they get in – even if it’s only a short (30 minutes or less) drive. We bought a portable DVD player last summer and have used it on two trips, both of which were 7+ hours of driving. Even when we do turn on the TV (car or home), he’s interested for about five minutes before he’s ready to play with toys.

I laughed at the comment of watching TV on cell phones. While we were stuck at the pediatrician office one day (five hours for steroid treatments), my husband streamed Sesame Street from YouTube on his Blackberry. We also have found ourselves pulling up Sesame Street on YouTube on the laptop, to get a few minutes’ reprieve on the days when we’re working at home because DS is sick. Now when he sees the laptop or Blackberry, he says “El’o!”

...

January 21st, 2010
8:33 am

My kid spends too much time on screens, but no where even close to the amounts quoted above. I try to make sure he spends more time reading and writing than watching screens, but I admit that its too much.

The amount of hours quoted above seem impossible. By the time a child arrives home from school, they only have about 3 to 5 hours at home period before its time for sleep. Even if every one of those minutes was spent on a screen, it wouldn’t come close to the 7+ hours they mention.

Michelle

January 21st, 2010
8:35 am

I try to keep it limited all the way around. If he plays on the computer, it’s usually chess or minesweeper. He gets to play his DS, but usually no more than 30 minutes at a time. He lost the priviledge of playing x-box or watching x-box games (long story). As the spring and summer approach, I’m sure we’ll be spending more time on bikes and playing outside than watching TV or playing video games!

Michelle

January 21st, 2010
8:36 am

Oh…and we usually try to read for 20-30 minutes before bedtime. This helps to cue his body into the fact that it’s time to sleep!

Hi There

January 21st, 2010
8:43 am

Well, my little one loves her Barbie movies and a few other shows, but I doubt she watches more than an hour a day. They rarely watch movies at school (daycare) and she isn’t old enought to be working on our computer. I think when we were kids we did watch TV about the same, but we didn’t have video games at home, a computer or any other “screen-time” device. How much time are the parents spending in front of all these things? I know tons of people who work all day on a computer only to go home and plop down in front of the TV or computer again until it’s time to go to sleep and do it all over again. I am hopefully raising my little one to know that you get your workout in, do a few chores around the house and cook dinner and before you know it, ti’s just about time for bed. We do watch our shows don’t get me wrong, but I want her to see that there is more to life then just looking at something on a glowing screen.

I have a feeling the older she gets, the more she is going to want to do on the computer, phone or whatever, I just hope I can still limit what she has to do on there so it doesn’t become all that she does. By the way, did they factor in the obesity levels of the kids who are in this high range? No doubt that a majority has to be a high number.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 21st, 2010
8:51 am

I have to buy the DS because I know Walsh would want to be on it every second of the day and because it’s portable he could take it any where —- I think it would be very difficult to regulate him on it so I’m just not getting it.

I liked the suggestion the other day about having to read as much as they were playing online —

But it does bring another light to our previous discussion about doing homework online — that’s only adding into this figure —-

I need to pull the obesity story from yesterday Michelle Obama is making a big drive about obesity — I will look it up –

RJ

January 21st, 2010
8:51 am

“The biggest users of media are black and Hispanic youths in their early teen years”. Really?! Whatever! Is there not one favorable statistic for minorities?

My kids don’t have time for much TV during the week because by the time they get home, they either have to go to their tutor, finish homework, go to basketball practice, tennis practice, stay after school for chorus rehearsal or tutoring with a teacher. I don’t buy it. My son complains that he never gets to watch TV and video games aren’t allowed Monday through Thursday in my house, not that he even has time. Even the weekends are hard because there’s the basketball game (or soccer depending on the season), Saturday tennis practice, hanging out at the mall for my teen. We’re rarely even home. My neighbors are the same way.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 21st, 2010
8:59 am

RJ — I think that’s a weird statistic too —- that surprised me

DB

January 21st, 2010
9:05 am

It’s easy to dismiss that much time as “bad” — and it certainly isn’t GOOD — but I think we have to recognize that some of that time is in place of activities that kids USED to do without a computer, and now use a computer to do. The biggest example of that, to me, is how teenagers used to use the telephone 20-30 years ago, as opposed to how they use the cell phone to talk/text or how they use the computer for internet chatting, Facebooking, etc. I can remember being on the phone for HOURS, until my mother got peeved and threw me off. It was a form of interaction — the method of delivery may have changed these days, but it’s still the same need for communication/interaction.

Also, the print publication vs. screen time: Well, heck, didn’t we just cover that the other day, with on-line homework and references? If a kid spends 45 minutes on the computer reading about the Incas, is that 45 minutes *worse* than if they had spent with a book? Plus — sorry, AJC — many, many people get their news via the Internet these days, and have eliminated home delivery of a newspaper. For current events, most kids print something off the internet — they sure don’t clip it out of the newspaper!

I read stats like this with a heavy dose of skepticism. I know that my own kids seldom watched TV in high school — they flat-out didn’t have time, period. They were at school at 7:30 am, they didn’t get home until almost 7 pm (after school sports and activities), and by the time they ate dinner and did their homework, they were out cold!

JMP

January 21st, 2010
9:30 am

Theresa, hubby and I are having that same discussion about the DS for our oldest son. I agree, that since it’s portable he may be on it more than we would like, so for now it’s a no-go. I do like the suggestion that the online time match reading time, good one(can’t give credit, forgot who said it :( )
By current standards, we are probably dinosaurs as we don’t give them free reign with tv, computer and video games. They have them, but alot of times they are gravitating towards books, board games and (gasp) talking to us….just taking it all in, ’cause they are 8 & 10 y.old and I’m sure change is on the horizon :)
…waving to Wayne as I believe he mentioned he is from W.Mass, so am I.

Huh?

January 21st, 2010
9:35 am

DB

January 21st, 2010
9:58 am

Nintendo DS, I think — the hand-held unit?

Warrior Woman

January 21st, 2010
10:51 am

About 1/2 of my kids screen time is doing homework, and the second largest part is active games on the Wii. I’m not really worried about the entertainment time they’re spending on the PC or video games. It’s significantly less than the averages in this study, they are physically fit, and their grades haven’t suffered.

oneofeach4me

January 21st, 2010
10:58 am

These stats seem high. Maybe it includes summer time for kids who’s parents stay home and for kids who come straight home from school instead of attending ASP and not getting home until almost 7.

I have a daughter with ADD and a son with ADHD and to be honest, the TV only makes matters worse!!! For my 8 yr old chores have to be done 1st and prepping for the next day must be complete before TV time even comes into play. And when that happens, she usually only gets in 30 minutes before bedtime. My 4yr old son would much rather play with his cars or run around in his batman costume. Now.. if it’s a comic hero movie though, or Elmo, he is all over it. Anything else doesn’t really hold his attention long enough. At night my daughter reads to herself for 15 minutes, I read to my son for 15 and he is allowed to use his Leap Frog Tagit Pen for another 15 (being he still takes naps at school, he doesn’t go to sleep as quickly).

I do have to say though, in the spring, summer, and fall we don’t have time for any TV. With Soccer, Gymnastics, outside play and swimming, riding bikes and family stuff there’s hardly any time.

...

January 21st, 2010
11:14 am

My son has a DS but after a week of his face being buried in it, we mmade some changes. I now keep it on the top shelf of my closet. He asks if he can play it and I ask about his chores and homework. If everything is alright, I let him play for a while, then ask for it back.

Wayne

January 21st, 2010
11:37 am

Hi JMP! Yup, I’m a W. Mass. resident. Guess I have to be careful what I say now!

We were torn as our 6 yo wanted a DS for Christmas as all his buddies have one. We compromised by getting him a Didj. It connects to a computer and it is more educationally oriented. You can monitor what he’s doing, so for example I can look to see how he’s doing in math. It looks pretty good, he’s playing a game, but it’s challenging. He’s at the 2-3 grade level in math on it. We also bought a DS Lite, but it is one that has to be fixed. If he wants it, he has to fix it. Yes, he’s 6, but we’ll work on it together. He hasn’t shown a huge interest in it because of the Didj. We also have to limit his time on it though. Much like … we have to ensure all his other ’stuff’ is done first. He’s pretty good about TV (and the Didj too) in that he likes to build his robots, marble runs, and his artwork, so we’ve been extremely lucky.

FCM

January 21st, 2010
12:20 pm

BUT! What are they really doing with that time. My daughter left her Social Studies paper that she was supposed to read at school yesterday. She had the questions part. I found the EXACT paper she need online yesterday so she spent 30 min doing her homework…that is 30 min screen time.

Sure kids see more screen time now then they did years ago. Some of it is total crap and some of it is good. Just like when we were kids. Everybody raise their hands if they can remember when in ATL you only got the PBS, 3 major networks, and TBS. We have come a LONG way from that. Plus I think they will get more screen time since I do think teachers will go away from traditional settings and we will see more “home school” virtual classroom situations. It is in University more and more now and will trickle down.

FCM

January 21st, 2010
12:20 pm

OH and in the end who is the parent here? They only get as much time as you let them.

oneofeach4me

January 21st, 2010
1:12 pm

<<<<< raising hand @FCM

Actually Dar is right..

January 21st, 2010
1:19 pm

@FCM, another one raising hand..

FCM

January 21st, 2010
1:27 pm

GIGGLE….That was actually not meant to get a real vote but glad i am not the only “oldie” out here…The point is WE didn’t have much screen to choose from so it is logical that we would not have had much of it.

Today there is lots to choose from and you can make your own rules about it. Like at my house Sponge Bob is off limits…I swear I see their brain cells die if they watch that show. Now if they want to spend the day watching something educational I am for it.

I have another rule that says they have to read “x” and they do that. I shut off the tv and tell them playtime only…and they get their toys. The Nintendo DS lives in my room and is allowed when I say so. So you can control but like I posted earlier, I think MORE screen time is going to be normal — like with computers for school.

...

January 21st, 2010
2:06 pm

“Like at my house Sponge Bob is off limits…”

My son and I watch it together and laugh so hard. Good times.

b

January 21st, 2010
3:10 pm

My question—-how much screen time do you have? I know I spend the majority of my day in front of a computer screen, then at night to answer emails at home, pay bills, and I use an e-reader a lot of the time.

I have an IPhone so I do emails no matter where I am which is more screen time, then there is texting with my college student and last but not least, I do watch the occasional television show, usually sports, but I do tape a few favs that I watch on Friday night in a big bunch.

My youngest, who is still at home, cannot match me for screen time even though he watches television and plays xBox. He has a phone also but he uses it a bit differently than I do. During the day he only gets screen time during his word processing class or in the media center for research. He has some type of sports practice after school and homework when he gets home. Perhaps he gets 2 hours of screen time on average per day (not counting weekends), maybe more if there is a paper due or tests to study for….a lot of textbooks now have on-line study guides and practice tests that can help you get ready for the chapter tests.

Dar

January 21st, 2010
3:35 pm

Guilty on the Spongebob….in fact, my son has outgrown it in favor of shows like Malcolm in the Middle and Everybody Hates Chris, but I still watch it sometimes when I am cleaning or folding clothes. For me, television is pretty much sports or news. My son like the aforementioned MitM and EHC. We have every game system under the sun and my house at times resembles a gamer convention with all of the boys around playing, but they get up enough to go run around outside and play Airsoft that I am not worried that they are on the games too much. As an Atari-baby myself, I am amazed at the complexity and visuals of today’s games. And the XBox and PS3 live functions are incredible concepts. My son has a MacBook and the speed is great….and yes, I do make him use it for homework as well as AddictingGames. Too much? Not sure. When I was a kid we had televisions in our bedrooms too, but I read and listened to music all the time anyway….maybe my parents should have been chastised for not making me play outside more?

JMP

January 21st, 2010
4:09 pm

Wayne, no need to be careful….I’m in here too and who knows what I may say on any given day :)

Wayne

January 21st, 2010
4:13 pm

LOL… true enough!

FCM

January 21st, 2010
4:34 pm

“My son and I watch it together and laugh so hard. Good times.” That is your house and your rules…You don’t have to agree with my assessment of the show.

deidre_NC

January 21st, 2010
6:14 pm

also read stats and studies like this with lots of leeway…1st…who knows what population was in the study? also…my daughter spent probably that much time online in her jr and sr year of highschool but she had several classes she was taking online…i now spend HOURS online each day because i am taking 4 online classes….kids today get so much information for school online its no wonder they are online so much. if i had an office job (like i always have had) id be spending 12+ hours online each day im sure…its all so relative…..and blacks and hispanics spend more time? id like to read the demographics of this study really….i read the news and look at the weathe online instead of tv..i hate tv (except for american idol) and never watch it. my son is moving out the end of feb and im having the tv turned off at that time…my daighter and rarely watch it…but we do spend hours online…we also dont play games on ds or anything else…

Titanium Dragon

January 23rd, 2010
2:52 pm

This study is alarmism at its finest.

47% of heavy users reported lower grades, blah blah blah.

Guess who the heaviest users were?

Black and hispanic youth.

And guess who have ALWAYS had the worst grades and academic achievement?

If you guessed “Black and hispanic youth”, you are 100% correct! Ding ding ding!

As it turns out, this study is worthless. You have to cross-correlate for socioeconomic factors and consider the baseline for each group. When you end up with a disproportionate number of heavy using black and hispanic children, heavy users WILL look fatter, dumber, ect. but it isn’t actually the case – its simply the population of heavy users are on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder (well, a good portion of them).

A correct study would break these down by such things, and then see if there was any trend BEYOND the natural trend of “lower SES = worse grades”. I’ll wager that there isn’t.

EG

January 25th, 2010
12:24 pm

If you get a chance, check out this interesting video that highlights multiple perspectives about the study: http://www.newsy.com/videos/generation-text I think the key is moderation and parental involvement.