Adults are amazed by how much time children and teenagers spend with entertainment media each day. A recent study conducted by Common Sense Media found that teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 spend an average of 9 hours a day with entertainment media and that children between the ages of 8 and 12 spend an average of 6 hours a day. These figures do not include the time spent using media for school or homework. While these numbers are amazing, perhaps more remarkable were the results of a 2016 Common Sense Media study of parents that found that adults use media screen an average of 9 hours and 22 minutes each day, including both personal and work use. And a full 7 hours and 43 minutes of that time is described as “devoted” to personal screen media.
Regardless of what their parents are doing, twenty-first-century children growing up in the United States spend an enormous amount of time with digital media. According to an earlier Kaiser Foundation study conducted in 2010, children between the ages of eight and 18 spend an average of 7 hours 38 minutes a day with digital media. When the use of more than one digital device at a time is taken into account, they spend more than 10-1/2 hours a day with digital technologies. The Kaiser Foundation study examined more than a thousand families and had them keep very extensive daily diaries to document the amount of time their children spent in front of screens and with other technology.
Television is the largest attraction, with kids watching an average of 4 hours 29 minutes a day. Music comes next, at an average of 2 hours 31 minutes a day. Kids spend about 1-1/2 hours a day using computers and 1 hour 13 minutes a day playing video games.
The Kaiser Foundation study collected similar data in 1999 and 2004. In the 1999 study kids were found to have spent an average of 6 hours 19 minutes a day with digital media, while the 2010 study showed the amount of time to have increased to 7 hours 38 minutes a day. Kids between the ages of 11 and 14 spent the most time exposed to digital media, 11 hours 53 minutes a day. The youngest kids in this study, those between the ages of 8 and 10, spent an average of 7 hours 51 minutes a day using technology. Teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 had 11 hours 23 minutes of total media exposure a day.
As teachers are aware, there are increasing demands for using technology in the classroom. While exact data are not available, since 2010 thousands of school systems have introduced Chromebooks, iPads, or other personal devices for use in the classroom. Increasing amounts of homework are designed for work on the computer or online. Teachers are using more technology to keep track of students’ performance, inform parents about homework and assignments, and communicate directly with students and parents via social media. The more facile educators are with technology, the more likely they are to be able to connect with their students. Knowledge about the use of technology with complex and alternative learners is crucial for their development.
The Kaiser Foundation data are concerning for twenty-first-century children and may present additional concerns for children with ADHD and other learning and psychiatric issues. Educators are strongly encouraged to recognize the influence of digital media on students with special needs. LearningWorks for Kids details the potential power of many popular games and apps to help kids with special needs. Read through our blog posts, check out our information about executive functions, and, better yet, subscribe to our premium Educator pages for individualized recommendations for your students; hundreds of technology-based classroom activities; and access to videos, games, and apps to address the needs of complex alternative learners.