Northwestern University researchers and The Kaiser Family Foundation put together a media study, all races represented, to see what children use media the most and the results are staggering, according to researchers.
The study released this week reveals minority youth, ages 8-18, spend an average of 13 hours exposed to media a day, which is nearly five hours more than the average White youth.
The term media in the study covers everything from television and video games to cell phones, music, IPods, computers, and other electronic devices.
Researchers found that among 8- to 18-year-old children: Asian Americans logged the most media use (13 hours, 13 minutes a day), followed by Hispanics (13 hours), blacks (12 hours, 59 minutes), and whites (8 hours, 36 minutes.)
Those involved in the study did not speculate as to why Black youths use media more than White youths in today's society, however experts have a theory.
“Children may turn to media if they feel their neighborhoods lack safe places to play or if their parents have especially demanding jobs that prevent engagement," said Frederick Zimmerman, chair of the department of Health Services at the UCLA School of Public Health in a recent interview.
Communication experts agree with the new study that American youth spend an enormous amount of time with media, but minorities stand out for spending most of their waking hours with media.
“It is critical that we learn more about the impact it’s having on child development,” said Vicky Rideout, vice president and director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health.
Studies show that 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day to using entertainment media, which is more than 53 hours a week.
Researchers say children spend so much time “media multitasking,” they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7½ hours.
Decades of research have established that television and other screen media, including movies, the Internet, and video games, constitute a powerful environmental influence on children’s health and development, according to the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston.
Alvin Poussaint, founder of the Media Center at the Judge Baker Children’s Center and a professor of psychiatry, said the way children learn from television could cause another form of lasting harm.
“If children watch ‘edutainment,’ or shows that teach through song and dance, they begin to associate learning with an entertainment format and expect that format when they go to school,” he said.
“But teachers aren’t going to sing and dance for them. So then children complain that school is boring. Compared to the fast-paced, exciting shows they’re used to on television, it is boring. Nothing will meet that standard. Television constantly ups the ante.”
Some of the newest research suggests that television and the multimedia world in which children simultaneously watch MTV, listen to iPods, and chat on the Internet may be contributing to the increase in diagnoses of attention disorders though there has not been any concrete evidence to prove this theory.
But John Livingstone, a pediatric psychiatrist at McLean Hospital, is campaigning for PBS to embed emotional literacy in its new programming and for the cable industry to embrace health-risk standards.
“Television shows can model positive ways for handling feelings,” he said.
“Social learning research shows that when children watch likable characters struggling with decision-making, they can learn better impulse control, especially when they see the realistic results of the choices the characters made.”
University research also indicated that all groups of children spend more time on the computer for fun than for school studies.
Children 8 to18-years-old spend only about 16 to 20 minutes a day on school-focused activities, the study shows.
The findings from Northwestern University researchers will be presented to childhood and telecommunications experts in Washington, D.C. in the coming weeks.