The increase of children's access to mobile technology has enabled them to spend an average of nearly 8 hours per day using entertainment media.

The rise in children's access to mobile technology has enabled them to spend an average of nearly 8 hours per day using entertainment media.

Educators face a growing challenge in trying to compete for their students’ attention with near-constant access to entertainment media outside of school, a new study suggests.

Today’s technology enables children to have nearly 24-hour media access, and many are choosing to spend an average of close to eight hours per day using entertainment media, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study, “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of eight- to 18-Year-Olds,” found that children devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media during a typical day. However, because they spend so much of that time “media multitasking,” they manage to fit a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into that 7 and a half hours. The report identifies media multitasking as using more than one medium at a time.

“Generation M2” is the third in a serious of large-scale, nationally representative surveys by Kaiser about young people’s media use. It includes data from three time periods—1999, 2004, and 2009. The most recent report is based on a survey conducted between October 2008 and May 2009 of 2,002 third through twelfth grade students ages 8-18, including a self-selected subsample of 702 respondents who completed seven-day media use diaries, which were used to calculate multitasking proportions.

The study found that high levels of media multitasking also contribute to the large amount of media young people consume each day. About four in 10 seventh through twelfth graders said they use an additional medium “most” of the time they’re listening to music (43 percent), using a computer (40 percent), or watching TV (39 percent).

Paul Olean, director of marketing for interactive teaching technology provider mimio, said he was not surprised by the survey results. Olean said he sees the burden this increase in entertainment media use puts on teachers.

“The relationship to that and the classroom seems to place a greater burden on teachers to compete for [students’] attention and keep the student engaged. While interactive teaching technologies are not the whole answer, they are [an] instrument by which teachers can break through the clutter,” he said. “When teachers are given the opportunity to [use interactive technologies,] they are in a better position to compete with the commercial media for the minds of the student.”

Stephen Balkam, chief executive officer of the Family Online Safety Institute, attended the Jan. 20 event announcing the survey’s findings and said attendees seemed surprised with the results.

“I think everyone in the hall was somewhat taken aback by the degree of increase in media consumption,” he said. “I know that one of the authors had said five years ago that he thought we had reached the ceiling of how much media kids could consume, and yet there was this dramatic increase.”

Balkam added that handheld technologies have contributed to the swell.

“And part of why there was this increase was the mobile technology that allows kids to walk around with the internet in their pockets, basically. To have it on the school bus, to have it at playtime, to have it when they’re going to bed. In Japan they’ve created a waterproof cell phone, so now kids can take it in the shower with them,” he said.

According to the report, mobile media device ownership increased dramatically among 8- to 18-year-olds, from 39 percent to 66 percent for cell phones, and from 18 percent to 76 percent for iPods and other MP3 players. During this period, cell phones and iPods became true multimedia devices, the report said.