New Research by Common Sense Finds Major Spike in Mobile Media Use and Device Ownership by Children Age 0 to 8

Common Sense today announced the release of The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight, the third installment in an ongoing series of national surveys tracking the use of media and technology among U.S. children from birth to age 8. Among the key findings is the spike in the number of young children who have their own tablet device (now 42 percent, up from 1 percent in 2011) and the amount of time children age 0 to 8 are spending with mobile devices (48 minutes, up from just five minutes in 2011).

The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight is based on a large, nationally representative sample of respondents and replicates methods from 2011 and 2013 to gauge how media environments and behaviors have changed over the years. At a time of revolutionary change in the media landscape, the study is the only one of its kind, tracking young children’s use of new mobile media devices and apps along with older media platforms such as television, computers, and books.

In light of the new research, Common Sense is launching a series of new PSAs featuring actor Will Ferrell as a continuation of its ongoing #DeviceFreeDinner campaign. The campaign challenges parents and kids to put down their devices during dinnertime and enjoy in-person conversation. The new ads were developed in partnership with Bay Area advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners.

Additional key findings from the report include the following:

— Ninety-five percent of families with children age 0 to 8 now have a smartphone (up from 63 percent in 2013 and 41 percent in 2011), and 78 percent have a tablet (up from 40 percent in 2013 and 8 percent just six years ago, in 2011).

— Families with young children are now more likely to have a subscription video service such as Netflix or Hulu (72 percent) than they are to have cable TV (65 percent).

— According to parents, nearly half (49 percent) of children age 8 or under often or sometimes watch TV or videos or play video games in the hour before bedtime, contrary to recommendations from pediatricians. 

— Today, about one in 10 kids age 8 or under has a “smart” toy that connects to the internet (10 percent) or a voice-activated virtual assistant device available to them in the home, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home (9 percent).

“In today’s tech-driven world, where things are moving so quickly, it is really important to step back and take a hard look at what technology kids are using and how they are using it,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “Over the last six years, we have seen massive growth in media use and tablet ownership, and we haven’t even begun to experience the explosion of new technologies like virtual reality and voice-activated assistants in our homes. If we want to ensure our kids develop well and are successful in life, we have to make sure they get the most out of tech while protecting them from potential risks — and that means paying close attention to the role media is playing in their lives.” 

In addition to the findings mentioned above about how media use by kids has changed, the report notes that:

— Since 2011, the gap in high-speed internet access between higher-income and lower-income families — the “digital divide” — has been cut down from 50 to 22 percentage points (96 percent of higher-income families have high-speed internet versus 74 percent of lower-income families). The gap in overall mobile device ownership has virtually disappeared (3 percentage points), due to the number of lower-income families that now have a smartphone.

— Children from lower-income homes spend an average of 1:39 more time with screen media each day than those from higher-income homes (3:29 vs. 1:50). Children from homes with lower parent education consume more screen media than children from homes with higher parent education (2:50 vs. 1:37).

— Sixty-one percent of lower-income families now have a tablet device, compared to only 2 percent in 2011 (and 85 percent of higher-income families today).

— In 2011, 34 percent of lower-income families had a mobile device in the home; today 96 percent do.

— Today, two-thirds of lower-income parents (67 percent, not significantly different from higher-income parents) have downloaded apps for their child to use, compared to 14 percent in 2011.

— And lower-income children are as likely as higher-income children to have their own tablet device (40 percent from each group, and 45 percent of those in the middle-income group).

— In general, Hispanic/Latino parents are the most concerned about children’s media use, and African-American parents are most likely to say their children benefit from screen media.

“It is promising to see many of the gaps closing when it comes to access to technology and devices among all segments of our population,” Steyer added. “Technology is integral to success in our world, and every child deserves access to it. Over the last several years, we have seen the digital divide and app gap closing, which is a very positive development for our country.”

The latest #DeviceFreeDinner PSAs, created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, star Will Ferrell in familiar scenarios that could be plucked from anyone’s dining room, including a scene in which a family has settled into dinner and someone won’t get off their phone — only instead of a surly teenager or a precocious child, it’s parent Will Ferrell.

“It’s no fun to show someone disciplining a kid, but disciplining a parent who happens to be played by a famous comedian? Major fun,” said Jeff Goodby, founder and chairman at GS&P.

“We know that kids who have family dinners get better grades, have healthier eating habits, and have fewer behavior problems,” said Margaret Johnson, partner and CCO at GS&P. “So we enlisted some celebrity help to show the importance of having device-free dinners.”

The Will Ferrell PSAs, which can be viewed here and include the following:

— “Cat Filter,” in which we believe we’re seeing a family mourning a father who’s no longer there and whom they all miss. In reality, they’re talking about missing a father’s presence, a father now more dedicated to his social media profiles than to their family dinners.

— “Like,” the calling card of all social platforms, is also the mantra of Dad, who tries to make sure everyone feels his love, even if it’s at the expense of his family.

— “Basket,” which depicts the family moving toward getting Will to release his phone and join his family — and the real world — at the dinner table.

— “Attention,” which shows the family testing the boundaries of Will’s lack of attention. Funny or Die will exclusively run this PSA on its website starting today.

Visit to learn more about the campaign.

Source: Common Sense

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