Common Sense Media Research Documents Media Use Among Infants, Toddlers, and Young Children

Proliferation of digital media use among the very young; infants and toddlers spending twice as much time with screen media as books
For immediate release
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO – Digital media has become a regular part of the media diet of children ages 0 to 8, with four in 10 2- to 4-year-olds and half (52%) of 5- to 8-year-olds using smartphones, video iPods, iPads, or similar devices, according to a national study on young children’s use of everything from television to mobile devices and apps. The study, which will be presented and discussed at a panel in Washington, D.C., today, is the first in a series of reports from Common Sense Media’s new Program for the Study of Children and Media.

“Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America” is the first publicly available, national research study to document young children’s use of new digital media devices such as iPads or other tablet devices and mobile apps along with older media platforms such as television, computers, and books. Among the key findings:

  • 42% of children under 8 years old have a TV in their bedrooms.
    • 30% of 0- to 1-year-olds, 44% of 2- to 4-year-olds, and 47% of 5- to 8-year-olds.
  • Half (52%) of all 0- to 8-year-olds have access to a new mobile device such as a smartphone, video iPod, or iPad/tablet.
  • More than a third (38%) of children this age have used one of these devices, including 10% of 0- to 1-year-olds, 39% of 2- to 4-year-olds, and more than half (52%) of 5- to 8-year-olds.
  • In a typical day, one in 10 (11%) 0- to 8-year-olds uses a smartphone, video iPod, iPad, or similar device to play games, watch videos, or use other apps. Those who do such activities spend an average of 43 minutes a day doing so.
  • In addition to the traditional digital divide, a new “app gap” has developed, with only 14% of lower-income parents having downloaded new media apps for their kids to use, compared to 47% of upper-income parents.

Despite the proliferation of new technologies and platforms, television continues to dominate children’s media use. Among all 0- to 8-year-olds, an average of 1:40 is spent watching television or DVDs in a typical day, compared to 29 minutes reading or being read to, 29 minutes listening to music, 17 minutes using a computer, 14 minutes using a console or handheld video game player, and 5 minutes using a cell phone, video iPod, iPad, or similar device.

Even among infants and toddlers, screen media use dwarfs time spent reading. In a typical day, 0- to 1-year-olds spend more than twice as much time watching television and DVDs (53 minutes) as they do reading or being read to (23 minutes). And some young children have already begun media multitasking: 23% of 5- to 8-year-olds use more than one medium “most” or “some” of the time.

“Much of the focus in recent years has been on the explosion of media use among teenagers, whereas our study examines media use among young children during crucial developmental years,” said James Steyer, CEO and founder, Common Sense Media. “Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed their position that children under age 2 should not engage in any screen time, yet the data shows infants and toddlers are growing up surrounded by screens. This use data is an important first step toward understanding how the prevalence of media and technology affects the development of our youngest kids.”

The release of today’s study also serves as the launch of Common Sense Media’s Program for the Study of Children and Media, a multi-year research effort directed by Vicky Rideout, a senior adviser to Common Sense Media and director of more than 30 previous studies on children, media and health. The goal of the program is to provide free, objective, and reliable data about young people’s media use to those concerned about promoting healthy child development, including policymakers, educators, public health experts, child advocates, and parents.

“These results make it clear that media plays a large and growing role in children’s lives, even the youngest of children,” said Rideout. “As we grapple with issues such as the achievement gap and childhood obesity, educators, policymakers, parents, and public health leaders need access to comprehensive and credible research data to inform their efforts.”

For analysis and full results of “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America,” as well as more information about Common Sense Media’s Program for the Study of Children and Media, visit www.commonsense.org/research.

About Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to: www.commonsense.org.

METHODOLOGY: This report is based on a survey of 1,384 parents of children ages 0 to 8 years old. The survey was conducted online for Common Sense Media by Knowledge Networks from May 27-June 15, 2011, using a nationally representative, randomly recruited sample, with a notebook computer and dial-up access being provided to those who were not previously online. Lower-income families are defined as those with annual incomes of less than $30,000; higher-income families are those at $75,000 or above. For a full discussion of the methodology and a copy of the toplines, see the full report at www.commonsense.org/research.

Press Contacts:

Marisa Connolly
Common Sense Media
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Susan Lamontagne
Public Interest Media Group
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