media use

Stunning: Research shows intense spike in children’s media use

Close to half of children ages 0-8 have their own tablet.

New research has unearthed a dramatic increase in the number of young children who have their own tablet device–42 percent compared to 1 percent in 2011.

The research from Common Sense, which examines media use by kids ages 0-8 and is the third installment in an ongoing series that tracks media and technology use, also uncovered an increase in the amount of time children spend 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.

(Next page: Has the digital divide between high- and low-income families closed?)

“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,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “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.”

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).

Since 2011, the gap in high-speed internet access between higher-income and lower-income families 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.

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.

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.

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