Teens spend 9 hours a day consuming media- does this erode empathy?

Teens spend 9 hours a day consuming media- does this erode empathy?

"The sheer volume of media technology that kids are exposed to on a daily basis is mind-boggling"

Teens in the United States spend the majority of their waking hours consuming media. On average, young people spend nine hours a day rapt with media and technology – more time than they spend sleeping, at school, or interacting with live people.

The findings come from a recently released report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit. Media includes not only social media but also watching TV, videos and/or movies, playing video games, reading online, and listening to music. The researchers did not include media teachers may use in classrooms nor did it include media necessary to complete homework assignments.

The study found that children aged eight to eleven- so called tweens – consume on average five and a half hours of media a day; children aged 12-14 consumed eight and a half hours; teens 15-18 consumed just under eight hours a day.

“I think the sheer volume of media technology that kids are exposed to on a daily basis is mind-boggling,” said James Steyer, chief executive officer and founder of Common Sense Media.

“It just shows you that these kids live in this massive 24/7 digital media technology world, and it’s shaping every aspect of their life. They spend far more time with media technology than any other thing in their life. This is the dominant intermediary in their life.”

Common Sense Media claims this is the first large-scale study that explores young people’s use of a full range of media. Its sample size was 2,600 kids between the ages of eight and 18.

The high number of hours spent using various gadgets is partly the result of teens’ habit of multitasking. Three quarters of the study’s participants said that they text, watch TV, use social media and/or listen to music while doing schoolwork. The majority said that multitasking had no negative effect on the quality of their work.

“Teenagers think that multitasking during homework doesn’t affect their ability to learn and … we know it does,” said Steyer.

A closer look at the data reveals differences between various demographics. When it comes to video games, 62 percent of boys say they played ‘a lot’; only 20 percent of girls report playing video games as much. Girls typically spend more time on social media than boys.

Children in families that make less than $35,000 a year use technology significantly less than their peers in households that make more than $100,000 a year.

Across the board, TV and listening to music are the most common forms of media use, despite the allure of Xbox and YouTube.

Many worry that so much time spent in the digital realm weakens human empathy.

“That’s a huge issue in terms of society and human relationships and how young people are evolving in a social, emotional context,” said Steyer.

More research needs to be done in order to determine the positive/negative consequences of such great quantities of media consumption.

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