80% of US kids under 5 are online: Study

By Anne Collier

Those 0-to-5-year-olds are on the Net at least weekly, with about a quarter of three-year-olds online daily, increasing to about half by age 5, according to a just-released review of seven studies from the past five years by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. The percentage of daily Net users rises to about two-thirds by age 8. “Children ages 5-9 average about 28 minutes online daily. In 2009, the oldest children in our review (8-10) spent about 46 minutes on a computer every day. This is more than double the amount of time 8-to-10-year-olds spent online in 2006 19 minutes).” In a blog post about the study, it was good to see an acknowledgement of today’s digital-media reality – that it’s hard to research this or analyze multiple studies because a single technology or platform can offer multiple activities with different aims (education, entertainment, etc.) and a single activity can be engaged in on multiple platforms. Then there’s the vital element of context, and the way we parents have different reactions to different contexts. For example, researcher Jennifer Kotler writes, “The experience of playing a ‘shoot em up’ game on a mobile device where the goal is to blow up as many enemies as possible while your older sibling is goading you on at the mall is going to have a different impact on you than a game on that same mobile device where the goal is to ‘blast’ as many words as possible that begin have the same phoneme as a target word while you cuddle by your mother’s side on the couch.” A couple other points from the Cooney Center analysis: Among the 50 million US kids 11 and under, use of digital media has been diversifying (devices they use include computers online and offline, MP3 players, handheld and console gaming devices, learning toys, cellphones and smartphones); and it’s not all on the increase – 1/3 of parents say their children’s media habits have changed since the economic downturn in 2008, “most notably among lower-income families, who report an uptick in reading printed books or magazines and less mobile-phone texting.” [Here’s a USATODAY blog post about the review.]

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