Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America 2013

A Common Sense Research Study
October 28, 2013

Television continues to be the most widely-used platform for children’s educational content.

This survey indicates that many young children are using educational media including content delivered on new mobile devices. But television is still the platform with the greatest reach (by far), especially among children in lower-income families.

Among all 0- to 8-year-olds, 61% often or sometimes watch educational TV shows, compared to 38% who use educational content on mobile devices as frequently and 34% who use educational games or software on computers at that rate. Among 5-to 8-year-old children, use of interactive media for educational content is higher than among younger children, but TV is still the most popular platform even for this age group (59% often or sometimes watch educational TV, 48% often or sometimes use educational computer games or software, and 44% often/sometimes use educational games or apps on mobile devices).

Educational content for mobile devices is much more likely to reach higher- than lower-income children. Half (54%) of higher-income children often or sometimes use educational content on mobile devices like smartphones and iPads, but only 28% of lower-income children do. Similarly, 44% of children in the higher-income group use educational games or software on a computer compared to 25% of lower-income children. By contrast, educational television is equally likely to reach lower- as higher-income children: 63% of lower-income children often or sometimes watch educational TV compared to 55% of higher-income youth (a non-significant difference).

Much of the gap in use of educational content on computers and mobile platforms is due to lack of access to these technologies among lower-income families. Among children whose families own a computer, the gap in use of educational content disappears. Among children whose families own a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, the gap in use for educational purposes diminishes to 14 percentage points (59% of higher-income children whose families own a mobile device often or sometimes use educational content on it compared to 45% of lower- and middle-income children whose families own such a device).