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Children's Health Council

Report on Media Use By Tweens and Teens

December 7, 2015, News

On average, tweens (age 8 to 12) and teens (age 13 to 18) use many different devices and consume tremendous amounts of media. A new Common Sense Media report, Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Tweens,  uncovers patterns that could spark improvements in content, access, and learning.

The report, based on a nationally representative survey of 2,658 8- to 18-year-olds, identifies distinct types of media users with different patterns of use: Heavy Viewers, Light Users, Social Networkers, Video Gamers, Mobile Gamers, Gamers/Computer Users, and Readers. The recognition of these new user profiles can help parents understand that there’s no such thing as an “average media user” and that kids’ media use may actually be a reflection of deeper needs (for example, to connect with others or learn a new skill).

Some key findings:

  • There is wide diversity in screen media use: In any given day, 34% of tweens and 23% of teens spend 2 hours or less with screen media, while 11% of tweens and 26% of teens spend more than 8 hours with screens.  Overall, tweens average more than 4.5 hours (4:36) of screen media and teens more than 6.5 hours (6:40) of screen media a day.
  • On average among teens 39% of digital screen time (computers, tablets, and smartphones) is devoted to passive consumption (watching, listening, or reading), 25% to interactive content (playing games, browsing the web), 26% to communication (social media, video-chatting), and 3% to content creation (writing, coding, or making digital art or music).
  • TV is the media activity tweens engage in most often (62% do so “every day”); teens listen to music most often (66% “every day”).
  • Social media is an integral part of most teens’ lives (45% use “every day”), but it lags behind use of music (66%) and TV (58%). Only 36% of teens say they enjoy using social media “a lot” compared to 73% who enjoy listening to music “a lot,” and 45% watching TV.
  • Tweens and teens from low-income families have far less access to computers, tablets and smartphones.  For example, 92% of higher-income teens (family income >$100,000/year) have a laptop in their home, compared to 54% of lower-income teens (<$35,000/year).
  • Black youth report spending substantially more time with media than white or Hispanic youth.  For example, among teens, blacks use an average of 11:10 worth of media a day, compared to 8:51 among Hispanics and 8:27 among whites (a difference of 2:19 between blacks and Hispanics, and 2:43 between blacks and whites).

Read the full press release or download the study from the Common Sense Media website.


©Common Sense Media Inc. 2015. All rights reserved. Common Sense is the nation’s leading independent non-profit organization dedicated to empowering kids to thrive in a world of media and technology.

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