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How much time are young people absorbing media?

Teens consuming tvTrue or false:

  1. Young people are on the Internet more than they are watching TV.
  2. Young people aged 18-24 watch more mobile video (on their cell phone) than young people aged 12-17.
  3. Young people watch more TV on the internet than traditional TV.
  4. Young people 12-17 watch more TV than any other age group.

Well? What do you think?

The answers are all untrue. Yep. None of them are true in the slightest. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not your fault. You might have read headlines in the last month that have led you to believe otherwise.

For example. Last  month Variety magazine posted this article with the headline, “Class of ’11 is watching less TV.”

Completely untrue.

In fact, they are watching more TV than before. If you actually read the article, you’d find that young people do, in fact, watch less TV than other age groups, but they watch more TV than they used to AND they spend more time watching TV than they do absorbing any other kind of media. Yes, that means more Jersey Shore than Facebook. Perhaps Variety magazine should have just renamed their article, “Kids watching more TV than ever before, but adults watch even more!”

This is just one example of the misinformation floating around out there.

Here’s the skinny:

  1. Young people spend way more time watching TV than they spend online. All researches agree to this fact. Kaiser’s M2 report last year revealed 8-18-year olds spending about 3 hours more per day watching TV than browsing the internet, and one of Nielsen’s most recent reports shows an 18-year-old watching over 24 hours of TV per week, while only spending about 10 hours per week online (the individual numbers vary a bit between reports, but all agree that TV dominates).
  2. Young teenagers watch more mobile video than any other group. Young people aged 18-24 watched 5 hours and 47 minutes of video on their mobile phone, while young people aged 12-17 watched 8 hours and 40 minutes (the largest of any age group).
  3. Young people at 12-17 still favor traditional TV, watching over 24 hours per week, while only watching 1 hour and 31 minutes per week on a DVR and only 1 hour and 45 minutes per week watching TV on a computer.
  4. All other age groups watch more TV than young people age 12-17 (which is a whole heck of a lot of TV).

A lot of the confusion is because people just aren’t reading and/or reporting the numbers correctly. That’s why I joined with my fellow researcher David R. Smith to write the article, “The Truth Behind the Numbers,” exposing much of the misinformation, unveiling exactly how much time young people are absorbing media, and unpacking the accurate research from Nielsen, Kaiser and more. But then we also provide three suggestions for youth workers and parents who want to connect with these media saturated young people.

QUESTIONS: How did you do on the True/False quiz above? What was the most surprising fact? What TV shows do you hear your kids talking about the most?


Posted on July 6, 2011

  • Roy

    I think the reason we think teenagers watch less TV is because they say they do. Students would rather not tell you that they watch tv (besides Glee of course). I watch a lot of new shows, and when i try to connect relationally via TV, it always fails…

    "no, I've never heard of that show."
    "seriously!?! American Idol? come on…"

    I believe in the numbers, they just dont seem to fit.

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