CommonSense Media/Tech Study: Very Young Children

The Common Sense media group just released the results of a study of very young children (ages 0-8) and there are some interesting findings, including the increasing use of mobile devices and game consoles in young children’s lives. What is still in the air is whether this is good or bad, right?

Here is how Common Sense Media group describes the report:

Zero to Eight is a nationally representative survey of parents of U.S. children ages zero to eight, conducted to understand the patterns of media use among young American children. Covering TV, other video, reading, music, computers, video games, and mobile digital devices, we examine time spent and frequency of use; differences in children’s media use by gender, race, or socio-economic status; the home media environment; educational media use; and access to the newest mobile media platforms like smart phones and tablets.

One of the various findings (all of which are very interesting, by the way)  that stuck out for me is the continued Digital Divide concerns related to socio-economic factors in not only exposure to technology and media, but also knowledge of how to use it (thus, in my view, validating the ever-increasing importance of schools and teachers). They even reference an “App Gap” of who has access to mobile devices. That’s a new term for me.

Check out this chart from the study:

And this one around race and media use:

Some other findings:

* Half (52%) of all children now have access to one of the newer mobile devices at home: either a smartphone (41%), a video iPod (21%), or an iPad or other tablet device (8%).
* Half (51%) of all 0- to 8-year-olds have ever played a console video game, including 44% of 2- to 4-year-olds and 81% of 5- to 8-year-olds. Among those who have played console video games, the average age at first use was just under 4 years old (3 years and 11 months). Among 5- to 8-year-olds, 17% play console video games at least once a day, and another 36% play them at least once a week.
* In a typical day, 47% of babies and toddlers ages 0 through 1 watch TV or DVDs, and those who do watch spend an average of nearly two hours (1:54) doing so.

I continue to be torn between being an advocate for young people learning and using technology and media for their own reasons and exposing young people to these elements of technology and media. This tension comes to me in my role as parent as well as teacher. I keep an eye on trying to give kids the tools to “create” and become the composers with the technology, and not just passive users. That’s my lens.

But studies like this indicate that too many parents of very young children are content to plop a kid in front of any screen and let them at it, no matter the age. That unsettles and worries me, to be honest. No screen should be a babysitter, and all of the initial research around brain development and technology seems to indicate something is going on with our brains when young people use technology.

I am hoping to use parts of this study at a future Western Mass Writing Project event as a way to look at technology and pop culture and media saturation.

Peace (in the wonderment of the change),


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