It was back in late 2004 when the Kaiser Family Foundation released their groundbreaking study Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds. Since then, that research has served as the most extensive and helpful picture into how kids engage with their snowballing media world.

If you’ve sat in on anything I’ve presented since then, you’ve most likely seen and heard me refer to many of the study’s findings. It’s pure gold. Over the course of the last couple years, my referencing has included a clarifier: “This is from 2004. But it’s the latest and best we’ve got. I can’t wait for Kaiser to unleash the new stats because we know they’re going to be markedly different.” That “it-doesn’t-take-a genius” statement proved true yesterday when the Kaiser Family Foundation released the long-awaited latest. . . that is now the best.

Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds offers an amazing window into a world that we suspected was out there, confirming many of our suspicions along with shedding light on some things that we didn’t know were actually happening.

Several of you have asked me to comment on what the study reveals. I’m still working to dissect it all, but have gone through it enough to be able to pull out some highlights to pass on in this context. First, however, let me encourage you to 1) download and read the report – it’s worth your time, and 2)glance at the slideshow the folks at KFF have posted online.

Some quick highlights. . .

-The average 8-18 year-old is spending more time with media. In 2004, kids were spending 6 hours and 21 minutes a day with media. Because they were multi-tasking and using multiple platforms simultaneously, their total media exposure was 8 hours and 33 minutes a day. Fast-forward to our present world. In 2009, kids were spending 7 hours and 38 minutes a day with media. Total media exposure (due to multi-tasking) was up to 10 hours and 45 minutes a day.

-Lest you think this includes time spent engaging with media in the school environment, think again. The research results reflect “recreational use.”

-The amount of time using four popular types of media per day increased since 2004. Use of music/audio increased by 47 minutes. Use of TV content increased by 38 minutes. Use of computers increased by 27 minutes, and use of video games increased by 24 minutes. Movie use did not change, staying at 25 minutes a day. Engagement with print media (reading) dropped from 43 minutes a day to 38 minutes a day.

-If you spend any time with kids at all, you won’t be surprised by the fact that mobile media has really changed the way kids engage with the media world. 66 percent of our kids now own a cellphone, up from 39 percent in 2004. 76 percent now own an iPod/MP3 player, up from 18 percent in 2004. And laptop ownership has increased from 12 percent to 29 percent. Media now travels with them. Unlike those of us who are older, teenage media use decreasingly tethers them six to eight feet from an electrical outlet. Consider how that has changed the way they have TV content delivered: they are accessing it on mobile devices including their cell phones, iPods, and laptops.

-Consider how they are using their cell phones. 8 to 18 year-olds spend an average of 33 minutes a day talking on their cell phones, 17 minutes a day listening to music on their cell phones, 17 minutes a day playing games on their cell phones, and 15 minutes a day watching TV on their cell phones! Oh, we forget text messaging. The report say that 7th to 12th graders spend an hour and a half a day text-messaging. And by the way – TAKE NOTE – time spent texting or talking on a cell phone is not included in the report’s count of media use!

-Kids whose parents set and enforce media rules spend less time with media than their peers. For example, kids who grow up in homes where there are no media rules have 12 hours and 43 minutes of total media exposure a day (sum total of time spent with different media), as compared to 9 hours and 51 minutes of total media exposure a day for those who live in homes where there are media rules.

-How many kids have rules? 46 percent say they have rules about what TV they can watch, 30 percent have rules about the video games they can play, 26 percent have rules about the music they can listen to, and 52 percent have rules about what they can do on the computer.

-If kids have media in their bedroom, they’re going to engage with that media more than their peers. For example, total daily media exposure for kids with a TV in their bedroom is 11 hours and 56 minutes a day, as compared to 7 hours and 55 minutes for those who don’t have a TV in their room.

-There are significant differences in media use related to ethnicity: 13 hours of total media exposure per day for Hispanics, 12 hours and 59 minutes for Blacks, and 8 hours and 36 minutes for Whites.

So what does this mean? Here are some thoughts. . .

First, if you’re a youth worker, get this info in the hands of your parents. Remember, they are primarily responsible for the the nurture of their children. Get them the info, and offer them some suggestions, particularly in regards to setting media use rules in the home.

Second, recognize that media is not an evil thing. Rather, it’s how we use it that’s the problem. Using too much, using it in ways that hurt us rather than help us, and using it to access stuff that glorifies the world, the flesh, and the devil. . . well, that’s where we get into problems.

Third, do something about it. The “something” we’ve been trumpeting for years is “media literacy.” Simply stated, we are responsible to teach and equip kids to integrate their faith into ALL of life. That ALL includes the growing amount of media time that for some, is ALL of life. But how? This is where I want to encourage you to find out about the tools we’ve carefully developed and tested over the years to teach kids to think Christianly and critically about all the media they consume. Our How to Use Your Head to Guard: A 3(D)Guide to Making Responsible Media Choices does just that. You can access a free Leader’s Guide for this tool here. For those of you working in public school or other non-sectarian settings, we’ve developed a version of the guide – Minding Your Media: A 3(D)Guide to Making Responsible Media Choices – that teaches kids media literacy skills based on the timeless virtues. You can access a free Teacher’s Guide for that version here. All of these tools are available in our CPYU Resource Center. (We’ve already gotten them into the hands of 38,000 kids, and a new print run hot off the press arrived in our office today.)

And finally, do something about it. . . in your own life. Take a look in the mirror to evaluate how you’re using media along with how much media you’re using.

2 thoughts on “Finally! The Latest On Kids and Media. . . .

  1. This is really great! We’ve been really evaluating our use of the media as adults. Our kids have rules, but we really needed to look at the example we were setting. We needed to place value on our time…

    Things have changed around here :). Thank you for sharing this!!!

  2. WOW!!! I’ve stopped reading the comments on this blog due to the fact that they are so boring. They are nothing but “Atta Boys” for Walt, and the corresponding pat on the head. But the post dated Jan 15 had so many comments that I was curious. WOW!!! Really thought-provoking.

    I took the comments into my Sunday School class. After quite a spirited discussion we voted. 12 in support of old head and 2 for em

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