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Common Sense Media Releases "Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America 2013"

Common Sense Media is releasing the results of our latest national survey on the media use of children aged zero to eight years old in America.

Jim Steyer | October 27, 2013

Today, Common Sense Media is releasing the results of our latest national survey on the media use of children aged zero to eight years old in the U.S. It's been two years since our last look at the media environment and behaviors among this age group, and it's startling to see just how dramatically things have changed.

Perhaps you've seen it for yourself: small toddlers in strollers holding smartphones in their tiny hands, busily swiping at screens. With the latest wave of this series, we now have data that goes beyond anecdotal evidence to show just how much mobile media use has increased among the youngest of our population.

Among the many significant findings in Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America 2013:  

  • Three quarters (75%) of kids have access to mobile devices, up from just over half (52%) two years ago;
  • The number of kids who've used mobile devices has nearly doubled (38% to 72%)
  • The average amount of time kids are spending on mobile devices has tripled, from 5 to 15 minutes a day
  • There's been a five-fold increase in ownership of tablets, from 8% in 2011 to 40% in 2013
  • Thirty-eight percent of infants and toddlers under two have used a mobile device, up from 10% in 2011
  • In fact, in 2013, as many babies and one-year-olds have used smartphones or tablets as all kids under the age of eight had done just two years ago!

To me, these data describe the latest generation of digital natives, who, by the time they are ready for kindergarten, are likely to be more than comfortable with the latest gadgets, software, and applications. Findings from the study hint at the opportunities and challenges our educators face when it comes to engaging and meeting the needs of their youngest tech-friendly charges.

Our research also reveals that despite an increase in access to mobile devices among lower income families since we last checked in 2011, the digital divide persists. Twenty percent of lower-income kids have a tablet compared to 63% of kids from higher-income households, and nearly twice as many higher income families have high-speed access to the internet.

The disparity in access impacts access to educational content, too. Across all families, 54% of higher income kids use educational content on mobile devices, but only 28% of lower income kids do. Interestingly, however, when kids across all income levels have equal access to technology, the gap in reported use of educational content diminishes among families owning mobile devices, and all but disappears for computer owners.

Still, as much as childhood is going mobile, it turns out that television viewing still dominates our kids' screen time - occupying as much as half of the total 1:55 hours of average screen time per day. Nearly six out of 10 children (58%) watch TV at least once a day, compared to 17% who use mobile media, 14% who use the computer, and 6% who play video games every day. As such, TV is still the predominant platform for educational content, (61%), compared to mobile devices (38%) and computers (34%).

We know that the media and technology our kids consume and produce can profoundly impact their learning, social development, and behavior. The best way to maximize the benefits and minimize the perils is to have an accurate understanding of the role it plays in their lives. Please take a look at the report and infographic, share widely, and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.