You’ve probably seen it – a teenager rocking to music blasting from headphones while also texting, checking out Facebook and watching TV.
And, supposedly, doing homework.
For those people who date back to pre-handheld-device days and who found it hard enough to concentrate on homework even without digital distractions, the sight of multitasking teens is mind-boggling.
It’s also more prevalent than you might think.
A new report by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based non-profit that tracks children and their technology use, finds that teens age 13 to 18 spend almost nine hours a day – that’s longer than they usually sleep – on “entertainment media,” which includes things like checking out social media, music, gaming or online videos.
And that’s not including time spent using media for school or homework.
Meanwhile, tweens – those aged 10 to 12 – are not far behind, consuming about six hours of similar content, according to the report released Tuesday.
The study also found that half of teens say they often or sometimes watch TV (51%), use social networking (50%), text (60%) and listen to music (76%) while doing homework. You can bet that those figures include some who do all four at the same time.
“As a parent and educator, there’s clearly more work to be done around the issue of multi-tasking,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. “Nearly two-thirds of teens today tell us they don’t think watching TV or texting while doing homework makes any difference to their ability to study and learn, even though there’s more and more research to the contrary.”
For old-media diehards, it is perhaps surprising that listening to music and TV are still the favorites among teens and tweens, with about two-thirds of teenagers saying they listen to music every day, and 58% reporting daily consumption of TV. By contrast, 45% reported using social media every day and only 36% said they enjoyed that activity “a lot.” Twice as many said they really enjoyed their music.
Television is the favorite activity of preteens, according to the report, with 62% of age 8- to 12-year-olds saying they watched every day.
Boys are much more likely to play video games than girls. The survey found male teenagers spent an average of 56 minutes a day gaming, while girls devoted seven minutes. Girls spent more time on social media or reading than boys.
Ethnicity also plays a role, with black teenagers spending more time with media than other groups – an average of 11 hours and 13 minutes each day. Latino teens spend just over nine hours and white teens spend eight hours, 48 minutes, the study found.
“The census really sheds light on how different media use is for different kids,” said Steyer, “from boys to girls, low-income to more affluent, and kids from all ethnic backgrounds.”
The report is based on interviews with 2,658 young people earlier this year, according to Common Sense Media, with the results having a margin of error of plus or minus just under 2%.
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