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Kids’ Screen Use Sees Fastest Rise in 4 Years

Isolation from friends and other factors during the pandemic contributed to a significant increase in screen usage by tweens and teens from pre-pandemic levels.

Common Sense Media — a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of all children and families — released a detailed report in March showing that screen use has grown much faster in 2021 than in the previous four years. That usage for tweens was six times higher in the last two years.

The pandemic has likely been instrumental in changing screen usage. Platforms like TikTok continue to enjoy growing popularity and, according to the study, could also lead to increased use.

Researchers were looking for details on whether there were persistent differences in screen media use by young people by the time society began to reopen in autumn 2021, disregarding the time they spent using digital devices from the time they spent on online courses and homework.


Total entertainment screen use among tweens and teens per day, 2015 to 2021

Entertainment screen usage includes the time spent watching television and online videos, playing video games, using social media, surfing websites, creating content, reading emails and other digital activities. In 2021, for the first time, time spent reading e-books was included in the totals (6 minutes for tweens and 8 minutes for teenagers), and time spent watching films in cinemas and spent using an iPod Touch has not been taken into account (these have been taken into account). seven minutes for tweens and six minutes for teenagers in 2019). Source: Common Sense Media


The results show no dramatic changes in the overall patterns of media use by tweens and teens in relation to the types of devices used. The time they spend on extracurricular screen activities increased significantly as social media use spread somewhat among younger age groups.

Online video has cemented its place at the top of young people’s media hierarchies. However, video games did not increase dramatically during the pandemic. The top activities remain the same — online video, gaming, and social media. The general patterns between tweens and teens or boys and girls have also continued.

Media can be used positively or negatively. According to Mike Robb, senior director of research at Common Sense Media, vulnerable children use media excessively or use media in ways that contribute to mental health problems.

“We need to be able to identify and support these children. But there are also kids out there who use media to lift their spirits, connect with friends, or support their mental health. We have to make sure we don’t reflexively demonize all screen time,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“It really depends on who’s using it, what they’re using, and to meet what needs.

More insights into media use

The report found eight significant findings compared to the last pre-pandemic media usage report in 2019. Common Sense Media’s study is the only nationally representative survey tracking media usage patterns among a truly random sample of eight- to 18-year-olds in the 2019 United States , said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media.


Website teenagers wouldn’t want to be without it in 2021

Among the 79% of 13-18 year olds who use social media and online video regularly (at least once a week), percent choose every website as the one they wouldn’t want to live without.

Sites teens won't want to be without in 2021

Source: Common Sense Media


In addition to the results cited above, the researchers found:

  • When forced to choose, teenagers say YouTube is the website they wouldn’t want to live without. In fact, watching online videos is the most popular media activity for both groups, both boys and girls, regardless of racial/ethnic groups and income levels.
  • Social media use is increasing among eight to twelve year olds. 38 percent of tweens used social media (up from 31 percent in 2019). Almost one in five (18 percent) said they now use social media on a daily basis (up from 13 percent since 2019).
  • Teens now spend nearly an hour and a half a day using social media, but have conflicting feelings about the medium. Although teenagers spend a lot of time on social media, they don’t enjoy it as much as other types of media.
  • The top 5 social media sites teens have ever used are Instagram (53 percent), Snapchat (49 percent), Facebook (30 percent), Discord (17 percent), and Twitter (16 percent).
  • Both tweens and teens differ significantly in the average amount of screen media they engage with each day. Boys use more screen media than girls. Black and Hispanic/Latino children consume more than white children. Children from low-income households consume more than children from higher-income households.
  • Children have consumed more media overall during the pandemic than they did before 2019, except for one source: Reading usage has not increased.
  • Almost half of all teenagers listen to podcasts, and one in five said they do so at least once a week. They engage in a variety of media types, including media primarily based on the spoken word.
  • A large number of Black Hispanic/Hispanic children in low-income households still do not have access to a computer at home. This is one of the most basic building blocks of digital equity.

Alarming results

Robb has been impressed by the sharp increase in screen time over the past two years compared to the four years before the pandemic. From 2015 to 2019, media usage for tweens grew by just 3 percent. In teenagers, it grew by 11 percent.

But from 2019 to 2021 alone, media use grew by almost 20 percent among both tweens and teenagers. That’s almost six times the growth we saw for tweens alone before the pandemic.

“I’m also struck by the fact that 38 percent of tweens have used social media, even though most platforms aren’t intended for people under the age of 13,” he noted.


Top entertainment screen media activities among tweens and teens, 2021

Top entertainment screen media activities among tweens and teens, 2021

Video games refers to games played on a console, computer, or portable game player. Mobile games refer to games played on a smartphone or tablet. Source: Common Sense Media


What kids do with media is just as important or more important than how much time they spend with media, Robb said. When kids use good content, use technology to socialize and hang out with their friends, and use technology to express themselves, he thinks we don’t have to worry as much about time.

“When media use replaces important activities like socializing, spending quality time with family or sleeping, I worry,” he said.

take researchers

The researchers noted that they were surprised not to find a dramatic increase in new tablet and smartphone distribution among tweens and teens. The poll doesn’t show that happened, they said.

“We are beginning to see a modest trend towards social media use at a younger age. This is particularly interesting given the ongoing debates about the impact of social media on young people’s well-being,” they wrote.

The other new media product being pushed by Facebook (now Meta) is immersive media accessed through virtual reality. The time increase is only for entertainment media, not for school, distance learning or homework, Robb clarified.

At this point, adoption of the new medium has been slow to catch on; actually slower than podcast growth, the report notes.

“I keep wondering if we’re going to eventually hit a media usage cap, but so far we haven’t,” Robb added.

Changing views on the impact of children

A recent study (Rideout & Robb, 2021) shows that many young people used their digital devices during the pandemic to connect with friends online, learn about things that interested them, and create their own content and to share. This work suggests that parents and educators should be cautious about demonizing children’s screen time consumption, Common Sense Media’s Steyer wrote in the report’s conclusion.

“It’s clearly played an important role for a lot of tweens and teens during the pandemic,” he added.

This latest survey of children’s media use shows that activities such as content creation, video chatting and online reading are common, important and meaningful to young people. But that increased screen time still accounts for a tiny fraction of total screen use, Steyer warned.

“In the end, the time young people devote to the content produced by others, whether it’s content they watch, read, play with or browse through, still predominates. Given the tremendous amount of time children devote to media, it is all the more important to improve quality media by creating and promoting shows, games, apps and books that engage, inspire and provide positive narratives,” he concluded.

The Common Sense Census 2021: Media Use by Tweens and Teens report is available here.

Kids’ Screen Use Sees Fastest Rise in 4 Years Source link Kids’ Screen Use Sees Fastest Rise in 4 Years

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