Studies have shown that most American school age children, generally referred to as people between the ages of 8-18, are now spending over 8 hours per day using media tools. This includes the use of the following items:
iPhone or Blackberry
This generation of children and teens has, without a doubt, become the most tech savvy generation to date. Parents are astounded as they watch their children answer Instant Messaging on their computer, download music, text on a phone and try to do homework all at the same time. This phenomenon has become known as media multitasking. It is important to keep in mind that because kids often multitask their screen time, many of them manage to be using more than one screen at once. This can mean that the average media multitasking time may be as high as 11 hours per day.
Studies have shown that while some kid’s brains are actually re-framing to be more receptive to media multitasking, it is important to realize that this comes with a price. Scientists have proven that this type of behavior results in a learning style that allows for less retained memory. This means that whatever kids are learning is not sinking in as deeply as it possibly could. For kids who already have attention problems, this could be devastating.
While many people are quick to blame the culture, that’s not core issue. Now that most children have the internet at their fingertips constantly, it’s no surprise that they are using it in a steady stream. This is truer still if kids have a smart phone. Statistics show that they consume more media, including TV via sites like Hulu, on their phones than they talk on them. This is despite the fact that now a lot of smart phones allow users, to watch YouTube or text while talking.
While it has become clear that the obsession with media multitasking isn’t healthy for kids, many parents are unsure of how to approach the problem. The evidence shows that media multitasking clearly has a negative influence on grades, behavior, sleep and stress. Educational, parenting and health experts agree that the time has passed for debating the effects of media multitasking on children. It’s time to find ways to deal with our children’s media consumption habits.
Surprisingly, there is some good news. Some studies indicate that screen time does not seem to affect exercise rates and, while it affected all students to some degree, recent studies have shown that most study participants got good grades and it was only the heaviest users, those logging sixteen hours or more per day, that really suffered. The bad news is that the kids with the heaviest media usage were much more likely to report that they were bored, sad or depressed.
So where does that leave parents? Many parents are overwhelmed trying to keep tabs on a teen, much less a teen with 24/7 internet access. Experts advise limiting media use during meals and in bedrooms as 7 out of 10 teens have a TV in their bedrooms. Statistics show that the lightest media users live in homes where their viewing time is restricted. Kids with specific screen time limits did even better at controlling their viewing. Do not be afraid to set down boundaries and rules that fit the maturity of your child, for better health and grades.