Children's screen time is increasing at the fastest rate in four years.

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Children's screen time is increasing at the fastest rate in four years.


Isolation from peers and other reasons contributed to a large rise in screen use among tweens and teenagers compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organisation devoted to improving the lives of all children and families, produced a thorough research in March indicating that screen time would expand considerably faster in 2021 than it did in the preceding four years. Tween usage has increased sixfold in the last two years.

The pandemic was most certainly a key factor in changes in screen use. According to the report, platforms such as TikTok have grown in popularity and may be driving increasing use.

Researchers wanted to see if there were any long-term alterations in young people's usage of screen media when society reopened in the fall of 2021. They focused on tweens (ages eight to twelve) and adolescents (ages 13 to 18) in the United States and the time they spent using digital devices outside of online coursework and assignments.

In terms of the sorts of devices utilised, the results suggest no significant changes in the overall patterns of media usage by tweens and adolescents. As social media use grew across younger age groups, the amount of time they dedicate to non-school screen activities increased considerably.

Online videos have firmly established themselves at the top of young people's media pyramids. However, video gaming did not skyrocket during the epidemic. The top three activities are still online videos, gaming, and social networking. Furthermore, the overall tendencies between tweens and adolescents, or between males and girls, have persisted.

The media may be utilised in both beneficial and harmful ways. According to Mike Robb, senior director of research at Common Sense Media, vulnerable children are overusing media or using media in ways that lead to mental health difficulties.

"We must be able to recognise and help such children." However, there are some children who use media to maintain their mood, connect with peers, or support their mental health. "We need to be careful not to automatically demonise all screen time," he told.

"It truly depends on who is using it, what they are using it for, and what needs are being met."

Additional Media Use Findings

The research discovered eight key findings when compared to the last media consumption survey prior to the pandemic in 2019. According to James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, the study is the first nationally representative poll tracking media consumption habits among a truly random sample of eight- to 18-year-olds in the United States.

In addition to the previously mentioned findings, researchers discovered:

·         If forced to choose, adolescents said they would not want to live without YouTube. In fact, viewing internet videos is both boys' and girls' preferred media activity across racial/ethnic groupings and income levels.

·         Social media use is increasing among children aged eight to twelve. Social media was used by 38% of tweens (up from 31 percent in 2019). Almost one-fifth (18%) stated they currently use social media on a daily basis (up from 13 percent since 2019).

·         Teens now spend about an hour and a half every day on social media, but they have mixed opinions about it. Despite the fact that kids spend a lot of time on social media, they do not appreciate it as much as they do other forms of media.

·         Instagram (53 percent), Snapchat (49 percent), Facebook (30 percent), Discord (17 percent), and Twitter are the top five social media sites utilised by youths (16 percent).

·         The average quantity of screen media that tweens and teenagers consume each day varies greatly. Boys watch more television than girls. Black and Hispanic/Latino children utilise more than White children. Children from lower-income families consume more than those from higher-income families.

·         Except for one source: reading, children absorbed more media overall during the pandemic than before to 2019.

·         Nearly half of all teenagers listen to podcasts, and one in every five listens at least once a week. They interact with a wide range of media, including media that is predominantly centred on spoken word.

·         Many Black, Hispanic/Latino, and low-income children still do not have access to a computer at home. This is one of the most fundamental components of digital equity.

Worrying Findings

Robb was startled by the dramatic rise in screen time over the last two years compared to the four years preceding the outbreak. Tween media consumption increased by only 3% between 2015 and 2019. It increased by 11% among teenagers.

However, media consumption among tweens and adolescents increased by about 20% between 2019 and 2021. For tweens alone, this is over six times the increase seen prior to the epidemic.

"I'm especially impressed by the fact that 38% of tweens have accessed social media, despite the fact that most services are not intended for those under the age of 13," he said.

According to Robb, what kids do with media is just as significant as how much time they spend with it. He believes that if kids are utilising excellent material, using technology to interact and hang out with their peers, and using technology to express themselves, we don't need to worry about time as much.

"I'm worried when media consumption replaces crucial tasks like socialising, spending quality time with family, or resting," he stated.

Researchers' Opinion

Researchers were shocked to observe no significant increases in new tablet and smartphone distributions among tweens and teenagers. According to them, the poll does not suggest that this occurred.

"There is a little upward tendency in the usage of social media at younger ages." "This is especially intriguing considering the continuing discussions concerning the influence of social media on the well-being of young people," they said.

Immersive media, accessible via virtual reality, is another new media product promoted by Facebook (now Meta). According to Robb, the time increase is just for amusement media and not for education, remote learning, or homework.

The paper observes that the usage of the new media has been reluctant to catch on; in fact, it has been slower than the rise of podcasts.

"I keep wondering whether we'll reach a media use ceiling at some time, but we haven't," Robb continued.

Changing Perspectives on the Impact of Children

According to a recent research (Rideout & Robb, 2021), many young individuals utilised their digital gadgets throughout the epidemic to communicate with peers, learn about topics of interest, and produce and distribute their own material. In the report's conclusion, Common Sense Media's Steyer writes, "This analysis implies that parents and educators should be cautious about condemning kids' screen time usage."

"During the epidemic, it obviously played a major role for many adolescents and teens," he continued.

According to the most recent assessment of children's media use, activities such as content creation, video conferencing, and online reading are common among young people and are essential and relevant to them. However, Steyer noted that the increased screen time represents only a small portion of overall screen use.

"In the end, whether it is content they watch, read, play with, or scroll through, the amount of time young people dedicate to information generated by others continues to dominate massively." Given the amount of time children spend with media, it's critical to elevate excellent media by developing and publicising shows, games, apps, and books that engage, inspire, and provide positive depictions," he concluded.

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