Need a babysitter? There's an app for that. A study published this week says a huge percentage of children under the age of eight are consuming media on iPods, iPads and other devices at growing rates.
A study published by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that studies children’s use of technology, says digital media has become a regular part of a child's life and mobile devices are the toy of choice.
More than half (52%) of all children under the age of eight have access to mobile devices at home including smartphones, iPads, iPods and other tablets. And the rate at which kids are adopting technology is also perhaps surprising: 40 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds are using everything from TV to mobile devices and apps.
According to the study, 11 percent of all kids up to 8-years-old regularly use a cellphone, iPod, iPad or similar device and spend an average of 43 minutes doing so. Parents seem to be supporting the digital babysitters, as more than a quarter (29%) of all parents have downloaded mobile apps for their kids to use.
“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 of Common Sense Media, in a media release. "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.”
Among the key findings of the study:
• 42 percent of children under eight years of age have a TV in their bedrooms (30 percent of 0- to 1-year-olds, 44 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds, and 47 percent 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.
While new technologies are starting to get the attention of both parents and tots, the study says TV continues to be the dominant medium and kids 8-years-old and under consume an average of 1:40 of TV or DVDs in a typical day.
Children also spend 29 minutes daily reading or being read to; 29 minutes each day listening to music; 17 minutes per day using a computer; 14 minutes daily using a video came console; and five minutes using a cellphone, iPod, iPad or similar device.
According to the study, infants between 0-1 years of age spend double the amount of time watching TV and DVDs than reading. Some children are also multitasking, as nearly one quarter (23%) of 5- to 8-year-olds use more than one device at a time.
“These results make it clear that media plays a large and growing role in children’s lives, even the youngest of children,” said Vicky Rideout, a senior adviser to Common Sense Media and director of more than 30 previous studies on children, media and health. “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.”
The study, "Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America," is based on a survey of 1,384 parents of children up to 8 years old, and was conducted May 27-June 15, 2011. The full study can be downloaded free here (opens in PDF).