Entertainment Media Diets of Children and Adolescents May Impact Learning

Teachers cite negative effect on students' attention spans, writing, and face-to-face communication

Common Sense Media
Thursday, November 1, 2012

San Francisco, CA -- A new study on the role of media and technology in kids' lives reveals that many teachers suspect the quantity and quality of kids' at-home media choices may be negatively impacting their in-class performance.

The report, "Children, Teens, and Entertainment Media: The View from the Classroom," is the latest research from Common Sense Media's Program for the Study of Children and Media. Based on a nationally representative survey of 685 classroom teachers, the findings include:

  • 71% of teachers believe students' entertainment media use -- the TV shows, video games, texting, and social networking they do for fun at home -- has hurt students' attention spans "a lot" or "somewhat";
  • 59% believe such media use has hurt students' abilities to communicate face to face;
  • 58% say students' writing skills have been negatively impacted by their use of entertainment media; and
  • Nearly half of teachers (48%) believe students' media use has hurt the quality of their homework.

These concerns about the impact of entertainment media on students' academic skills were consistent whether the teachers described themselves as "tech-savvy" or less comfortable with new media; whether they were new to the classroom or teaching veterans; and whether they taught at high- or low-income schools. Among teachers who say their students' academic skills have mainly been hurt by entertainment media, more than two-thirds point the finger at video games (68%) and texting (66%).

At the same time, 63% of teachers say entertainment media has helped students hone their ability to find information quickly and efficiently, and 34% say it has helped students' ability to multi-task effectively.

"The social, emotional, and cognitive impact of media and technology on our kids is of paramount importance to Common Sense Media," said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO, Common Sense Media. "We know that our children learn from the media they consume. This survey is yet another reminder of how critical it is to consistently guide our kids to make good media choices and balance the amount of time they spend with any media and all of their other activities."

In terms of social development, more than two-thirds of teachers (67%) believe that entertainment media has a "very" or "somewhat" negative impact on students' sexualization, and 61% say the same about students' ideas about relationships between boys and girls. Among teachers who believe students' social development has been negatively affected by entertainment media, the blame falls primarily on television (71%), movies (61%), music (56%), and social networking (55%). In comments throughout the online survey, several teachers noted a positive impact from entertainment media on students' engagement with the world and their exposure to diverse viewpoints.

"There have been several important surveys of teachers about the use of media and technology as a learning tool in the classroom, but few, if any, that explore what teachers think about the impact of media use by students at home," said Vicky Rideout, president of VJR Consulting, who authored the study for Common Sense Media. "Teachers' opinions are important because besides parents, teachers are the adults who spend the greatest amount of time with children and adolescents every day."

While the survey offers educators' unique and important perspective on entertainment media use and academic performance and social development, it does not quantify academic achievement and correlate results with children's patterns of media use. For more information about the key findings of this survey, or for details about the Program for the Study of Children and Media, visit www.commonsensemedia.org/research.

The report is based on a survey of 685 public and private K-12 classroom teachers in the U.S. It was conducted for Common Sense Media by Knowledge Networks, now a part of GfK Group, from May 5-17, 2012. The survey was conducted online among a nationally representative sample of teachers who had been recruited to the online panel through probability-based sampling methods including address-based sampling and random-digit-dial telephone surveys. "Entertainment media" was defined as the TV shows, music, video games, texting, iPods, cell phone games, social networking sites, apps, computer programs, online videos, and websites students use for fun outside of school. The exact question wording is included in the full report, along with many verbatim comments from individual teachers.

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 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, visit: www.commonsensemedia.org.

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