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April 1, 2006
Vol. 63
No. 7

Special Report / A Generation Immersed in Media

Each month, Special Report summarizes a recent research study (or several studies related to the same topic) containing findings of importance toEducational Leadershipreaders. The purpose of this column is not to endorse or refute the conclusions of the study or studies summarized, but rather to keep readers informed about timely research that may significantly influence education policy and practice.
To what extent does an environment saturated with new and evolving media influence the lives of young people? The Kaiser Family Foundation and Stanford University researchers tackled this question in a recent study titled Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8–18 Year-Olds. The report studied media use among a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 3rd through 12th graders in the United States.
The study found that although the actual number of hours that young people devote to media use has remained steady in recent years—at approximately six and one-half hours daily—teens are multitasking more as they engage in using various media simultaneously. This translates into eight and one-half hours of media exposure daily. Moreover, nearly one-third of the respondents indicated that they either talk on the phone, instant message, watch TV, listen to music, or surf the Web for fun most of the time that they're doing their homework.
The report, which includes detailed results by age, gender, race, and socioeconomic group, offers some interesting insights about 11- to 14-year-olds.

How Tweens Engage with Media

Tweens' bedrooms are increasingly becoming multimedia centers. According to the study, 68 percent of 11- to 14-year-olds have a TV in their bedrooms, 52 percent have a video game console, 31 percent have a computer, and 39 percent have a telephone.
Parents become increasingly lax about enforcing media-related rules as their child grows older. Twenty-two percent of the 11- to 14-year-olds surveyed reported that their parents enforce controls on their TV-watching most of the time, compared with only 13 percent of 15- to 18-year-olds. Twenty-seven percent of 11- to 14-year-olds reported that their parents had established rules about how long they could play video games; only 11 percent of 15- to 18-year-olds surveyed reported such controls.
The tweens surveyed averaged almost four and one-half hours of screen media viewing each day, which included watching TV, videos, DVDs, and movies. TV-watching dominated, with this age group viewing approximately three and one-quarter hours of TV daily. One alarming demographic distinction emerged for the survey group as a whole (children ages 8–18): White children reported watching, on average, two and three-quarters hours of TV daily; Hispanic children reported watching close to three and one-half hours daily; and black children reported watching four hours of TV daily.
The 11- to 14-year-olds also reported spending close to two hours with audio media (radio, CDs, cassettes, MP3s) and approximately one hour using the computer daily, with games and instant messaging taking up most of their computer time.
All this engagement with screen and audio media may result in less time spent with print media outside of school. Tweens spend, on average, only 20 minutes a day reading non-school-related books, although the time spent with all print media—books, magazines, and newspapers—totals approximately 40 minutes. The study seems to indicate that children's engagement with print media diminishes as the children grow older. When asked whether they had spent more than 30 minutes the previous day reading a book, magazine, or newspaper, 51 percent of students ages 8–10 responded affirmatively, compared with 48 percent of 11- to 14-year-olds and 43 percent of 15- to 18-year-olds.
Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8–18 Year-Olds was published in March 2005 by the Kaiser Family Foundation in conjunction with Donald F. Roberts and Ulla G. Foehr of Stanford University. The full report is available atwww.kff.org/entmedia/7251.cfm.

More Research on Tweens

America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2005

This is the U.S. government's ninth annual report monitoring the well-being of U.S. children and youth. Compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, the report presents a comprehensive look at critical areas of child well-being, including health status, behavior and social environment, economic security, and education. The report is available at www.childstats.gov/americaschildren.

Focus on the Wonder Years

Prepared by the RAND Corporation for the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, this study provides international comparisons on student well-being and school climate of youth of middle school age. The report compares students in U.S. middle schools with their peers in Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Finland, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, and the Slovak Republic. The full report is available atwww.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2004/RAND_MG139.pdf.

Amy Azzam has contributed to Educational Leadership.

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