Slice of Life: Screen(media)time Survey

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

Yesterday, my students and I were reading aloud Time for Kids in class, which we do quite often for understanding non-fiction text and also to engage in discussion about world events and issues. The cover story in the magazine was about the amount of time that young people spend with media — television, mobile devices, gaming systems, etc.

We had some pretty interesting discussions about the emergence of technology in the lives of young people, including some debate about whether schools should allow cell phones into classrooms (my students: a resounding “no” because of distractions) and whether having the television on while doing homework is a good idea or not. What about music?

Since the TFK article used a recent survey by the Kaiser Foundation as its basis, I decided on a spur of the moment to survey my own students on a few of the same questions.

The questions were:

  • Do you have a television in your bedroom?
  • Do you have your own cell phone?
  • Do you have an MP3 player/iPod?
  • How many computers do you have in your household?

Here are our results. Click on the photo to get a bigger image.

(I used an online graph generator for showing our results, which are shown as percentages. But I can’t figure out why the graph has a 120 as one of the top lines, and there was no clear way for me to remove that data point.)

I guess it’s not surprising that 94 percent own a music device, but it was interesting how many (35 percent) have more than three computers (including laptops) in the house. Not one student did not have any computers at all.

The Kaiser study found that young people average about 7 hours of media/screen time per day. That includes Wii and gaming systems, computer work, mobile devices, and more. My students thought that was a bit excessive and while I did not ask them how many hours they do spend, my guess would be about three hours (based on conversations I have had with them).

Peace (in the data),

  1. I have many televisions in my home. I have two WIIs, three computers, a stereo, ipod, ipod radio, etc. There is only my husband and myself. We are avid readers and consumers of information. It is not unusual for us to be watching CNBC and working on our laptops in the evening. Multi-tasking is a way of life for us and I expect that is true of most young people as well. I don’t think we should sell kids short because they are embracing technology. We have to accept change and roll with it to keep up with them.

  2. Wow. Interesting data. I appreciate the way you extended the lesson to the students’ real world. At a recent conference, a speaker mentioned that children do not engage their imagination as often due to technology. Find balance is the key.

  3. All that media, instant entertainment time…it’s no wonder that kids have such a difficult time using their imaginations and being self directed these days.

  4. This is a fascinating slice…a few years ago I did a similar activity with my eighth graders for National TV Turn Off Week – Kids kept track of the number of hours that they watched t.v. and then we looked at grade point averages for each class compared to average number of hours of tv watched. Of course, you know the correlation – the kids were shocked. Did it change behavior? I don’t think so, but it sure raised awareness.

    Great activity, thanks for sharing it.

  5. In response to Wanda, I think there is such a thing as too much exposure and too much technology.

    My husband and I do not believe in having a TV in the bedroom, and when our kids are older, they most likely will not have TVs in their room. We have one TV and it is in the living. We each have our own laptops, and we expect that our kids will have their own computers as well, though when I was growing up, my dad had his own computer for work, and the rest of us shared a family computer. My younger brother has his own laptop now, thanks to me (I handed down an old one when I upgraded!).

    I’m not opposed to kids having video game systems and handhelds (we do have a Wii! and I had nearly every video game system growing up) but it really IRKS me when I see parents letting their kids use their PS systems or iPods while at the dinner table or during family activities. There is a time for tuning in, and a time for tuning out.

    I read an article recently that said that multi-tasking was dumbing us down as a society, and that we’re losing the ability to focus on one thing at a time. This actually hinders, instead of helps, productivity.

  6. I found your survey results quite interesting. I’m new to this blog, so I’m wondering what grade students these are and how affluent the community is. The statistic regarding how many homes have 3+ computers was especially surprising. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Great questions (and ones I should have included)

      I teach sixth grade and my school is in a suburban district — pockets of wealth but mostly middle class.


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