Just In: The Screen-Zombie Apocalypse Is Here

A new census shows tweens and teens clocking a full work day's worth of screen time

Parent Fuels, Logo by Hayley Wright The good news: Your tween/teen has the focus and staying power of a full-time employee.

The bad news: The screen-zombie apocalypse is here.

A large-scale study released yesterday by Common Sense Media finds that teenagers (ages 13–18) use an average of nine hours of entertainment media per day and that tweens (ages 8–12) use an average of six hours a day, not including time spent using media for school or homework.

Repeat after me: The nine hours (teen consumption) and the six hours (tween consumption) of media usage does not include time spent using media for school or schoolwork.

Wait, there’s much more within the pages of the Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens. The study found race, class and gender all factor into how kids are likely to consume media. For example, there’s a significant digital equality gap between low-income kids who are far less likely to have access to computers, tablets and smartphones than their wealthier peers. But low-income kids with access are more likely to spend more time on their devices than kids from more affluent families.

Gender differences also showed up. Teen boys average 56 minutes a day playing video games, compared to girls’ 7 minutes. And teen girls spend 40 minutes more a day than boys on social media (1:32 vs. 52 minutes).

While online videos, mobile gaming and social media are making strides in popularity, watching TV and listening to music have staying power. Tweens and teens enjoy these media pastimes the most, consuming those most often. Still, retro media is being watched in new ways, with mobile devices accounting for 41 percent of all screen time among tweens, and 46 percent among teens.

Although parents love to worry about social media usage, it turns out all teens aren’t head over heels in love yet. While 45 percent of teens use social media every day, it lags behind use of music (66 percent) and TV (58 percent). Only 36 percent of teens say they enjoy using social media “a lot,” a small slice to the 73 percent who enjoy listening to music “a lot.”

Feeling calmer? Here’s a worry alert from James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. “As a parent and an educator, there’s clearly more work to be done around the issue of multi-tasking,” he said. “Nearly two-thirds of teens today tell us they don’t think watching TV or texting while doing homework makes any difference to their ability to study and learn, even though there’s more and more research to the contrary.”

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