Study: Kids use electronics 7+ hours a day

January 20, 2010 3:28:26 PM PST
The average American young person spends more than 7.5 hours in front of a computer, television or other electronic device.That's according to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That number can actually reach 10 hours a day if kids multi-task with media. For instance, listening to music while on the computer.

Media nowadays can be accessed 24 hours a day through smart phones with Internet access. Add to that the enduring popularity of television and computers, and kids today have information overload.

"I use my laptop, my iPod and also use my phone," one teen told ABC7 Chicago.

As soon as school lets out at Chicago's Walter Payton College Prep, students are plugging into their iPods and jumping on their cell phones.

They admit, a lot of their time is spent on one gadget or another.

"I watch TV a lot, and I'm also on the computer from 4 to 8 [p.m.]," student Alyssa Lawrence said.

A study released Wednesday shows just how much time young people spend on entertainment media outlets. Each day, it found that kids 8 to 18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes daily to media use, or about 53 hours a week, which is more than a full-time job.

"That wouldn't surprise me. 'Cause I'm probably one of those people," said another student.

"I watch a lot of TV every night, certainly, and I use my iPod every day. So, it wouldn't surprise me," student Ryan Smith said.

A factor in that average time of 7.5 hours, which is up from slightly more than six hours five years ago, is that nowadays, devices like the cell phone can be used for more than one function to talk, text, surf the Net and play video games.

Those changes have challenged educators to embrace technology, while at the same time encouraging students to focus on their school work.

"Our students use Moodle, and our teachers use Moodle, which is an online interface for students to go online and check all of their assignments. They can upload assignments and download assignments," Walter Payton College Prep Principal Ellen Estrada said.

But there are pitfalls to being plugged in too much. Experts say that puts kids at a greater risk of developing anti-social behavior, especially if their media outlet of choice is video games.

Parents are encouraged to set limits.

"Kids that spend a significant amount of time on video games are not interacting socially in other ways. They're probably not playing sports, not doing extra-curricular exercises, not going out," Dr. Louis Kraus of Rush University Medical Center said.

The Kaiser study found that African-American and Hispanic kids have a greater amount of total media exposure compared to white kids: on average, four hours more a day, specifically with TV watching.

Experts say that if parents are concerned with their child's use of media outlets, they have the power to impose rules.