For the first time, the amount of time youth (ages 8-18) spent watching "regularly-scheduled TV" dropped by 25 minutes, from 2004 to 2009, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But traditional TV remains the major screen for most young people. According to the study, 59% of media time is still devoted to live TV programming, with the rest a mix of time-shifted TV, plus DVDs, online, and mobile.
TV remains the dominant medium at 4 hours and 29 minutes per day; followed by music/audio at 2:31; computers, 1:29; video games, 1:13; print, :38 (38 minutes), and movies, :25.
If the report is accurate, kids and youth spend the majority of their waking hours in front of some kind of screen, with that screen time up from 6:21 in 2004 to 7:38 minutes today. Factor in multitasking, says Kaiser, and the total jumps to 10:45 a day, and even more for Black (12:59) and Hispanic (13:00) kids,
If past is prologue, the FCC will be paying close attention. The previous ones were cited by the FCC in opening its inquiry last fall into kids media in the digital age, and chairman Julius Genachowski is scheduled to speak at the opening of the conference Wednesday morning before heading back to the commission for an open meeting at 10:30 a.m.
Certainly Kaiser made no bones about wanting to be part of the regulatory conversation. "We hope that the data provided here will offer a reliable foundation for policymakers trying to craft national media policies," it said in the report's preface.
The study suggests the FCC may be right in putting emphasis on mobile video and broadband as an increasing factor. According to the study, mobile media is driving cell phone use, though that use is still a small fraction of total media time. Young people now spend more time watching TV, listening to music and playing games than talking on their phones--49 minutes per day, on average, vs. 33 minutes per day.
The FCC is also trying to drive broadband adoption by melding online and on-TV video. That, too, would appear to be the way to go given the dominance the TV set continues to have in the lives of tomorrow's 18-49s.
According to the study, two thirds of respondents said the TV was usually on during meals, and half said the set was on "most of the time," whether or not anyone was watching it.
While the report asserts no causal connection, it says that heavy media users reported getting lower grades.
It also reported that minority kids spent far more time with TV than "white children"--in the case of Blacks, it was almost six hours vs. 3.5 hours for white kids.
"The bottom line is that all these advances in media technologies are making it even easier for young people to spend more and more time with media," said Vicky Rideout, who headed up the study.
Kaiser is submitting the study as comment in the FCC's kids media proceeding. The original deadline for comment was the end of this week, but it has been moved to Feb. 24 and reply comments to March 26.
The study, "Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8- To 18-Year-Olds," is the third such study from Kaiser (the others were for 1999 and 2004). The 2009 sample was based on 2,002 3rd-12th grade students ages 8-18. The study was a combination of a self-administered in schools and a subgroup of 702 respondents given media use diaries to track multitasking. The margin of error is calculated at plus or minus 3.9% for the main group, somewhat higher for the subgroup.