Lower-in­come kids give more time to TV, dig­i­tal me­dia

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE - Lynn El­ber

Chil­dren in lower-in­come fam­i­lies spend more time watch­ing TV and us­ing elec­tronic de­vices than kids in more af­flu­ent homes, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey re­leased Thurs­day.

The re­port by the non­profit group Com­mon Sense Me­dia on the view­ing habits of more than 1,400 chil­dren na­tion­wide age 8 and un­der found that less-af­flu­ent young­sters spend nearly three-and-a-half hours daily watch­ing TV and us­ing var­ied de­vices in­clud­ing smart­phones, tablets, lap­tops and video game play­ers.

By com­par­i­son, kids in high­er­in­come homes spend just un­der two hours on such ac­tiv­i­ties. The off­spring of bet­ter-ed­u­cated par­ents also spend less time with me­dia (1 hour, 37 min­utes) com­pared with chil­dren of those with less ed­u­ca­tion (2 hours, 50 min­utes).

“Be­fore we can be­gin to un­der­stand the im­pact of me­dia and tech­nol­ogy on kids and fam­i­lies, we have to bet­ter un­der­stand their at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iors,” James P. Steyer, the non­profit group’s CEO and founder, and Reveta Franklin Bow­ers, chair of its board, said in a pref­ace to the re­port.

The sur­vey found that Latino par­ents ex­pressed the most con­cern about what their chil­dren are ex­posed to in me­dia, in­clud­ing sex, vi­o­lence and racial and gen­der stereo­types. African- Amer­i­can par­ents voiced some­what less con­cern, with white par­ents ex­press­ing the least worry among eth­nic groups.

But a ma­jor­ity of par­ents over­all said their chil­dren’s use of dig­i­tal me­dia helps boost learn­ing and cre­ativ­ity.

The time young­sters spend read­ing or be­ing read to has re­mained steady at 30 min­utes daily, com­pared with pre­vi­ous stud­ies in 2011 and 2013. But fewer than half (43 per­cent) of chil­dren un­der 2 are read to each day, counter to the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics rec­om­men­da­tion that read­ing to kids should be­gin at in­fancy to help de­velop lan­guage and lit­er­acy skills.

Nearly half (49 per­cent) of chil- dren are watch­ing TV or us­ing elec­tronic me­dia shortly be­fore bed­time, con­trary to the academy’s rec­om­men­da­tion of an hour gap be­tween such ac­tiv­i­ties and sleep.

Ac­cord­ing to its con­clu­sion, the sur­vey “should not be read as a judg­ment on the qual­ity of chil­dren’s time with me­dia; rather, it is a snap­shot of how me­dia and tech­nol­ogy are in­fused into daily life. Ad­di­tional ex­per­i­men­tal and qual­i­ta­tive work is es­sen­tial to bet­ter un­der­stand­ing the full im­pli­ca­tions of chil­dren’s me­dia use.”

Other key find­ings:

• Chil­dren 8 and younger spend an av­er­age of 2 hours, 19 min­utes daily with screen me­dia, about the same as in prior study years. TV gets the lion’s share, 58 min­utes, but mo­bile has risen rapidly from 5 min­utes daily in 2011 to 48 min­utes in 2017.

• The “dig­i­tal di­vide” is nar­rower but still ex­ists be­tween more and less af­flu­ent fam­i­lies. Home com­put­ers and in­ter­net ac­cess were found in 72 per­cent and 74 per­cent, re­spec­tively, of low-in­come homes, com­pared with 97 per­cent and 96 per­cent for high­er­in­come fam­i­lies.

• In a sur­pris­ing twist, chil­dren pick “old-fash­ioned” paper books over dig­i­tal read­ing. Only three of the 29 min­utes that kids spend read­ing each day are on elec­tronic de­vices.

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