September 26, 2019

How to Balance Children’s Digital Media Consumption

In their 2017 “Common Sense Census” report, Common Sense Media found that “children age eight and under spend an average of about two-and-a-quarter hours a day with screen media.” While digital media can be fun and informative, caregivers must be intentional in regulating their own and their child’s media consumption.

The Common Sense Census

To better understand the types of technology available to young children and how children utilize those technologies, Common Sense Media surveyed a representative sample of over 1,400 parents from regions across the United States. The survey included low- and high-income families, parents who received varying levels of education, and families from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Through the survey, Common Sense Media found that 98 percent of children age eight and younger have access to some type of mobile device in their home, with 98 percent having access to a television, 95 percent having access to a smartphone, and 78 percent having access to a tablet. In fact, 42 percent of the families surveyed reported that their child now has their own tablet device, a drastic increase from the reported seven percent four years ago.

Through these developments, children now spend more time consuming digital media per day than they do reading or being read to, with the survey average daily reading time reported as 30 minutes. Read the full report.

Risks of Excess Exposure

All media types, from movies and television shows to social platforms and gaming apps, expose consumers of all ages to a variety of content and messaging. While digital devices can be fun and incorporated as learning tools, they also pose threats to the early experiences of young children by:

    • increasing the likelihood that a child accidentally views violent or inappropriate content,
    • reducing the daily total time spent outside and being active,
    • and limiting children’s early opportunities to develop relationships and social, emotional, and communication skills.

With these risks, parents and caregivers must be intentional in monitoring the media content their children consume and the daily total time spent inside on digital devices. However, families must go one step further. Caregivers must also model healthy media balance behaviors themselves, integrating the same practices into their daily lives that they’re teaching their children. It’s critical that families establish a healthy balance between their offline and online activities.

Resources and Tools

To increase awareness and provide strategies on tackling this issue, Common Sense Media launched a series of resources for families and professionals, including:

*By texting the word KIDS to 21555, families can receive weekly text message tips on how to practice healthy media habits with their family and young children. Tips provided through this service are suitable for caregivers of children ages three to eight years old. Texts are available in English and Spanish. Standard messaging rates apply.

Learn More

To learn more about digital balance, visit the Common Sense Media website.

Two young children sit together while playing with a tablet.