Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kids' screen time at 8 year high--Does it mean anything?

I always distrust hearing that some statistic is at an 8-year high, or sometimes I even  hear about a 3-year high. That short a highest since could as easily be a spot on a sine wave of natural variation. Global warming deniers like George Will point out that 2006 was the coldest year in a decade,but if you look at longer-term trends, it's obviously just a blip in an upward sweep.

So I wonder about this story in today's LA Times. It seems that kids 2 to 5 watch screens on video games, TV, DVDs (I don't know if they included phone screens) an average of 32 hours a week, and 6 to 11s watch more than 28 hours, and this is an 8-year high. This comes from a Nielsen survey (couldn't find a link to the actual report).

In general, we all do seem to be using more screen time. God knows I do. But if it's only an 8 year high, that's another way of saying use has been on average flat for the last 8 years. I'd much rather see a trend since, say, the beginning of widespread use of TV in the 1950s, or at least since personal computers became common in the early 1980s, so I know if it's really increasing at a shocking level lately.

I'd also want to plot it by age group. I'll bet 60 year olds spend more time looking at a screen than they did a few years ago, too, and 40 year olds, and so on.

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