Common Sense Media recently published a study on the media use of young children. The study, entitled “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America,” surveyed 1,384 parents of children ages 0 to 8 years old, and was conducted May 27-June 15, 2011. While the full report is available for download, here are the highlights:


Key Finding 1: Young Children Use Digital Media Frequently

Mobile media: Over half (52%) of children under eight have access to mobile devices like iPods, smart phones, or tablets at home. Over a quarter (29%) of parents have downloaded apps specifically for their children to use. On a regular day, 11% of children use a mobile device for media consumption and they spend an average of 43 minutes doing so.

Computers: 53% of 2-4 year olds and 90% of 5-8 year olds have used a computer. 12% of 2-4 year olds and 22% of 5-8 years olds use computers daily. The average age for children who use computers to begin doing so is 3 1/2 years old.

Video Games: Over half (51%) of children have played console video games. 17% of 5-8 year olds play video games daily. The average age to begin playing video games is just under 4 years old.


Key Finding 2: Substantial Digital Divide

Children experience a large economic gap when it comes to home computer access. While 72% of children 0-8 have home computer access, the range varies wildly based on family income. Children of families earning less than $30,000 have a 48% access rate while those earning over $75,000 have a 91% access rate. Although home computer access has been the traditional means for measuring the digital divide, differences in economic status also result in an “app gap.” 38% of lower income parents say they don’t even know what an app is compared to 3% of high-income parents. While 47% of higher-income parents have downloaded apps for their children, only 14% of lower-income parents have done so.


Key Finding 3: Kids Under 2 Spend Most Time Watching TV

Children under one spend twice as much time watching television (53 minutes per day) as they do reading or being read to (23 minutes per day.) By the age of one, nearly a third (30%) of children have a television in their bedroom.


Key Finding 4: TV Dominates Young Child Media Time

When it comes to screen time, children spend much more time with television than any other digital device. Two thirds (65%) of children eight and under watch television every day and 39% live in a home where the television is left on most or all of the time, even if no one is watching it. Children spend much more of their daily screen time with television (an average of 1 hour and 44 minutes a day) than they do with other devices like cell phones, iPads, and iPods (an average of 5 minutes a day.)


Key Finding 5: Broadcast TV Most Accessible

Although 98% of lower-income children own a TV, only 53% have access to cable or satellite programming. However, children of lower-income households are more likely to watch educational programs than children in higher-income households. 26% of lower-income children “often” watch educational programming as opposed to 17% of higher-income children.


Key Finding 6: Demographic Differences in Media Use

Media use varies more depending on race and socio-economic status than it does on gender. When it comes to consuming media (digital and traditional) African American children spend an average of 4:27  a day, Hispanic children spend 3:28, and Caucasian children spend 2:47 a day. Children of higher income families spend about an hour less consuming media every day than do children of lower income families. 20% of higher income children have a TV set in their room, compared to 67% of lower income children. The only notable difference between genders is in the use of video games. Boys are twice as likely to have a gaming system in their rooms and spend an average of 16 minutes a day playing console games as opposed to 4 minutes a day for girls.


Key Finding 7: Media Multitasking

16% of children 8 and under consume more than one type of media at a time “all” or “most” of the time. In the 5-8 year old group, 21% had the TV on “usually” or “sometimes” while they did homework.



There certainly is a lot of information to digest. We want to hear from you! Which results did you find the most surprising? Are you concerned about the amount of time children spend consuming digital media?