A new study into the media habits of American youth has found that “In the past decade, the gap between minority and white youth’s daily media use has doubled for blacks and quadrupled for Hispanics,” says Northwestern Professor Ellen Wartella, who heads the Center on Media and Human Development in the School of Communication and directed the study. “The big question is what these disparities mean for our children’s health and education.”
Titled Media Use Among White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Children, the report is the first study on the differences of youth media use by race and ethnicity by parsing research from the 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation Generation M2 survey of media use among 8- to18-year-olds, and the Foundation’s 2006 survey about media use among children age six and under (The Media Family).
Key findings among 8- 18-year-olds include:
- TV remains most popular media with black and Hispanic youth consuming an average of more than three hours of live TV daily, nearly an hour more than white youth.
- TV viewing is even heavier when there is access to technologies such as TiVo, DVDs, and mobile are included. Total daily television consumption then rises to nearly 6 hours black youth, 5 ½ hours for Hispanics, 4 ¾ hours for Asians, and 3 ½ hours for whites.
- Minority youth are more likely to eat meals with the TV on — with 78% of black, 67% of Hispanic, 58% of white and 55% of Asian 8- to 18-year-olds reporting that the TV is “usually” on during meals at home.
- Black children under 6 are twice as likely to have a TV in their bedroom as whites and more than twice as likely to go to sleep with the TV on. Black children under 6 are almost three times as likely to eat dinner in front of the TV as white children the same age.
- Cell phones are important, with minority youth spending about 1 ½ hours more each day on their phones to watch videos & TV, play games, and listen to music than white youth.
- When it comes to recreational computer use, Asian youth dominate spending nearly 3 hours a day, compared to just under 2 hours for Hispanics, nearly 1 ½ hours for blacks and 1 ¼ hours for whites.
- Asian youth also are more likely to have computers at home, and are more likely to have a computer in their bedroom (55%, compared to 39% of Hispanics, 34% of blacks, and 32% of whites).
- There is no significant difference between races in the amount of time young people use a computer for schoolwork; all average a mere 16 minutes per day.
What this means for youth
More studies will have to be done to fully understand the long-term implications of these differences, but some questions immediately rise:
- How will the increased time online by ethnic groups’ impact obesity rates? The country is already in the midst of an obesity crisis. ….
- With minorities averaging 4 ½ hours more per day online, what will this mean to the economic divide and the crime/prison divide? Research has shown that youth who are heavy users of media are more than twice as likely to say they get poor grades (mostly C’s or lower) as light media users. Heavy media users are also more likely to say they get into trouble, are sad or unhappy, and are often bored.
- With a clearer correlation emerging between time spent online and the likelihood of developing compulsive internet use, will we see greater ‘addiction’ rates and the ensuing problems among minorities?
Whether compulsive internet use fits into the formal category of addiction or not, there is clear evidence demonstrating that some users develop a compulsive need to be online that interferes with their daily activities, their relationships, and their health. Though researchers are far from fully understanding the cause and effect relationship between internet use and maladaptive behavior (and to the extent these relationships may run both ways in that the addictive element may be the search for stimulation through interactive services, or the Internet may serve the purpose of an escape from real-life difficulties), evidence suggest that the risk to youth for developing these issues is much greater than it is for older users[i].
- If 13 hours are spent on media, and 7 hours are spent in school, what happens to sleep? With only 24 hours in a day, kids are either getting four hours or less sleep per night, or they’re asleep in school…
WebMD and the National Sleep Foundation say 7-12 Years Old need 10 – 11 hours per day, and that 12-18 Years Olds need 8 – 9 hours per day adding that “sleep needs remain just as vital to health and well-being for teenagers as when they were younger. It turns out that many teenagers actually may need more sleep than in previous years. The Mayo Clinic suggestsall school age children need 10-11 hours of sleep.
Research findings from the American Psychological Association illustrate the issues with sleep deprivation among teens. “Lack of sufficient sleep–a rampant problem among teens–appears to put adolescents at risk for cognitive and emotional difficulties, poor school performance, accidents and psychopathology”.
- Will the disparity in media use and habits impact the way school curricula is absorbed by minorities? Should this factor in to lesson designs to accommodate ethnic differences?
The answers to these questions could dictate profound changes in the way society manages the emotional, psychological, physical and educational impacts of excessive internet use. It will be interesting to learn the answers.