Kids from families that earn less than $35,000 a year spend two hours more on smartphones

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Children whose parents make less than $35,000 a year spend 8.5 hours a day looking at screens
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Kids from families that earn less than $35,000 a year spend two hours more per day on smartphones and tablets than rich kids do

  • Children from poor families spend 8.5 hours a day staring at a screen
  • Kids whose families earn over $100,000 a year spend six hours and 49 minutes
  • The most popular activity is watching videos, followed by playing video games 

Children from low income families spend significantly more time on their phones and tablets than those from rich families.

This finding comes from a new study by Common Sense, a non-profit that studies the effects of media and technology on families and education.

Kids aged 13 to 18 whose families make $35,000 or less each year spend 8.5 hours a day using smartphones, tablets, playing video games or looking at other screened media.

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Children whose parents make less than $35,000 a year spend 8.5 hours a day looking at screens

Kids age 13 to 18 from families whose parents earn over $100,000 per year spend six hours and 49 minutes on the same group of devices.

For tweens (children 8 to 12) from low income families, daily screen use was around six hours compared with roughly four hours for tweens from richer families.

Watching videos or TV shows was the most popular activity among both age groups, while playing video games were the second most popular activity.

Teens spent four times as much time as tweens using social media.

Sixteen percent of teen screen time across all income brackets was spent on social media, compared to just four percent for tweens.

‘For lower-income users, screen media are highly affordable activities compared to so many other options in their lives that cost money,’ lead researcher Vicky Rideout told Recode.

‘Even public schools charge money to be on athletic teams.’

‘To some degree, you could say lower-income users are using media to compensate for lack of opportunities in other areas of life, whether that’s learning, connecting to others, accessing information, or for entertainment.’

The effects of so much screen time among young people is still unclear.

Common Sense is a non-profit that studies the effects of media and technology on families and education

Common Sense is a non-profit that studies the effects of media and technology on families and education

Looking at screens may as well be a full-time job for the average teen, occupying seven hours and 22 minutes of each day

Looking at screens may as well be a full-time job for the average teen, occupying seven hours and 22 minutes of each day

Both teens and tweens have dramatically increased the amount of the time they spend watching videos on their smartphones and tablets each day

Both teens and tweens have dramatically increased the amount of the time they spend watching videos on their smartphones and tablets each day

A study earlier this year suggested too much screen time was linked with ADHD in toddlers.

Another study suggested that screens were to blame for teens getting less than they need.

In 2017, researchers from Oxford said using smartphones and tablets was a good thing for teens and the positive effects peaked at around 257 minutes per day.

For Rideout, the results of the media survey don’t point to any obvious conclusions.

‘We’re not really saying this is a bad thing or a good thing, but that this is a difference,’ she said.

‘It’s a difference we may want to look more closely at.’

HOW MUCH SCREENTIME SHOULD TEENAGERS GET?

A recent study by San Diego State University found that the happiest teenagers were those who limited their daily digital media time to slightly less than two hours a day.

After this daily hour of screen time, unhappiness rose steadily with increasing screen time. 

Looking at historical trends from the same age groups since the 1990s, the researchers found the proliferation of screen devices over time coincided with a general drop-off in reported happiness in American teenagers. 

Study participants born after 2000 were less satisfied with life, had lower self-esteem and were unhappier than those who grew up in the 1990s.

Since 2012, the average teenager’s life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness has plummeted.

That year marked the point when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone rose above 50 per cent for the first time.



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