As technology continues to invade everyday life, it seems nearly impossible to escape the glow of a digital screen. From signing into the doctor’s office on an iPad to ordering fast food from a kiosk in the restaurant, digital devices are everywhere. Even grade schools and middle schools are beginning to incorporate devices in their curriculums, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the barrage of media and devices. Jim Gaffigan spoke on this subject for CBS news, saying, “Screens are a part of our lives. They are not going away.”
Screen Usage Data
Recent Nielsen reports show that Americans spend nearly 11 hours a day consuming media from several digital devices, and the number of devices continues to grow. In the last 20 years, we’ve gone from clunky desktops to sleek, microcomputers that fit in our pockets. Over 80% of US adults have a smartphone, and though the Nielsen report shows just under 2 hours of usage a day consuming media on the phone, it does not include activities like texting or taking pictures. This could add significant time to the report.
While phones are probably the most easily accessible digital device, the copious amount of options for us to choose from is astounding. TV and radio continue to be the most popular way for Americans to consume media, with 94% of adults owning an HD TV and spending about 4.5 hours a day watching it. Other devices like tablets, laptop and desktop computers, and gaming consoles add to the lengthy times spent on digital devices.
Children are imitating adult screen habits, increasing their hours spent with digital devices over the years. In a recent study, children under 2 years old were shown to spend about 42 minutes with screen media, children ages 2-4 spend about 2 hours and 40 minutes with screen media, and children ages 5-8 spend almost 3 hours with screen media a day.
The older they get, the more time they begin to spend with their devices. US kids ages 8-12 (tweens) spend 6 hours a day consuming media, while kids 13-18 (teens) consume media for about 9 hours a day. Consuming media includes watching TV, playing video games, listening to music, and checking social media. In fact, some teens were recorded checking social media 100 times a day! This is the country’s average and it’s growing. The growth may be somewhat related to the accessibility, with 67% of teens having a smartphone and 53% of tweens having a tablet.
Let’s Put This Into Perspective
Considering that most teens spend less than 9 hours asleep, the amount of time spent consuming media is quite shocking. Again, this doesn’t include taking pictures or texting, which could add substantial time to their weekly device consumption. As far as adults go, a typical 168-hour week may look something like this:
This leaves a measly 8 hours a week for things like spending time with family and friends, exercising, housing maintenance (cleaning, laundry, minor repairs, etc.), reading and learning, religious events, and other activities that add value to our lives.
How Can We Improve?
These numbers are baffling, and while we know that modifications need to be made, many Americans admit that their habits are unlikely to change. Monitoring children when they are young can help develop better habits as they age. Reducing screen time not only leaves more time for enriching activities like family time and physical activity, but for kids, it’s been shown to improve sleep, school performance, behavior, and overall health. Like other lifestyle changes, instant improvements are unrealistic. It will take serious dedication to make these kinds of alterations.
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- Stark, Hazel. “Screen Time Is Becoming an Epidemic for Kids (and Everyone). Here’s a Way Out.” Matador Network, Matador Network, 31 July 2017, matadornetwork.com/life/screen-time-becoming-epidemic-kids-everyone-heres-way/.
- Hunt, Angie. “Limiting Screen Time Improves Sleep, Academics and Behavior, ISU Study Finds.” Iowa State University, University Relations, 31 Mar. 2014, news.iastate.edu/news/2014/03/31/parentalmonitoring.
- Gaffigan, Jim. “Jim Gaffigan Touches on the Prevalence of Screens.” CBS News, CBS Interactive Inc., 30 Dec. 2018, cbsnews.com/news/jim-gaffigan-touches-on-the-prevalence-of-screens/.
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- Wallace, Kelly. “Teens Spend 9 Hours a Day Using Media, Report Says.” CNN, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 3 Nov. 2015, cnn.com/2015/11/03/health/teens-tweens-media-screen-use-report/index.html.
- “The Total Audience Report: Q1 2016.” Nielsen, The Nielsen Company (US), LLC., 27 June 2016, nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2016/the-total-audience-report-q1-2016.html.
- Rasmussen, Eric. “Screen Time and Kids: Insights from a New Report.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 19 Oct. 2017, pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2017/10/screen-time-kids-insights-new-report/.
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