Video Time Leaps Among Teens And Tweens, While TV-Set Screen Time Drops

Online video viewing is “going through the roof” among young people, while time spent watching television on TV sets is declining, confirms a new study from nonprofit Common Sense Media.

Since the organization’s last media-consumption survey among tweens and teens in 2015, the percentages of those reporting that they watch online video every day has more than doubled among both groups.

Common Sense surveyed more than 1,600 U.S. eight- to 18-year-olds in detail about how they consume media, including video, social, mobile games and traditional media including TV, radio and books.

More than half (56%) of eight- to 12-year-olds now report watching video daily, versus 24% four years ago, and 69% of those 13 to 18 report the same, up from 34% in the last study.

Further, the average video consumption time per day has also doubled among both groups, from about a half hour to an hour. Tweens now average 25 to 56 minutes per day, and teens 35 to 59 minutes per day.

Meanwhile, the percentages saying they enjoy watching TV “a lot” have dropped from 61% to 50% among tweens and from 45% to 33% among teens.

And both groups report watching about a half hour less of TV on a TV set today than four years ago: 25 minutes less per day among tweens, and 24 minutes less among teens.

Even among shows watched on a television set, most viewing is now time-shifted.

Teens now average 42 minutes a day watching time-shifted TV on a TV set (such as through a DVR, on demand, or a subscription service like Netflix), 38 minutes watching TV on other devices, and just 25 minutes watching programming on a TV set as it is aired -- down from 54 minutes a day on average in 2015. (The 2015 survey inadvertently excluded on-demand viewing.)

Smartphone ownership has grown substantially over the past four years among all ages, increasing from 24% of all 8- to 12-year-olds in 2015 to 41% today, and from 67% to 84% among 13- to 18-year-olds. Even nearly one in five 8-year-olds (19%) have their own smartphones, up from 11% in 2015.

Interestingly, time spent on social media has remained steady (down one minute versus 2015 to an hour and 10 minutes per day).

But the age at which young people first start using social media varies widely. Among 16- to 18-year-olds who use social media, the median age of first use is 14, with 28% reporting that they started before age 13, 43% at 13 or 14, and 30% at 15 or older.

Both African American and Hispanic/latino teens spend more time using social media than their white peers do (among those who use it, Hispanics/latinos devote an average of 2:23 a day, blacks 2:15, and whites 1:35).

Looking at the bigger picture, on average, teens consume a total of seven hours and 22 minutes of screen media entertainment (homework time excluded) per day, and tweens consume four hours and 44 minutes’ worth.

Among tweens, the total amount of screen media time has been relatively steady, rising by eight minutes since 2015. Among teens, the total screen time has increased by 42 minutes per day from the six hours 40 minutes found in 2015, although this change is not statistically significant.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of teens use more than four hours’ worth of screen media per day, including nearly three in 10 (29%) who use more than eight hours.

Young people from lower-income households spend an hour and 50 minutes more time per day on screen entertainment, on average, than those from higher-income families: five hours 49 minutes versus three hours 59 minutes.

“We can’t say from the data in this report why this disparity occurs, or whether it has any effect on young people, either positive or negative. But we can affirm that this disparity does exist, and is fairly substantial,” write the researchers.

The study also found that despite claims to the contrary by tech companies, young people spend very little time creating their own content on screens.

“Screen media use continues to be dominated by watching TV and videos, playing games, and using social media; use of digital devices for reading, writing, video chatting, or creating content remains minimal,” sums up the report.

Total average media time per day, including non-screen media activities such as reading books and listening to music, is five hours 54 minutes for tweens and nine hours 49 minutes for teens.

The research confirms that reading has taken a beating in the competition with screen time.

Fully 32% of teens say they read for pleasure less than once a month, if at all.

“Most tweens (66%) and just over half of teens (51%) read for fun at least once a week, but 22% of tweens and nearly a third (32%) of teens say they do so less than once a month (17% of teens say less than once a month, and 15% say never),” sums up the report.

Further, “young people’s enjoyment of reading and their likelihood of doing it for their own pleasure drop substantially as they age: 38% of tweens enjoy reading ‘a lot,’ compared to 24% of teens, and 35% of tweens are daily readers, compared to 22% of teens.”

The report can be downloaded free with registration.

The survey was conducted online among a nationally representative, probability-based sample of 1,677 U.S. young people age 8 to 18 years old, using the Ipsos KnowledgePanel. African American respondents were oversampled to ensure a total sample size of 250 respondents. KnowledgePanel members are recruited using probability-based methods such as address-based sampling and random-digit-dial telephone calls. Respondents received a cash equivalent of $5 for their participation; African American respondents received an additional $5 equivalent to improve response rates among this lower-incidence demographic group. See report for more on methodology.

2 comments about "Video Time Leaps Among Teens And Tweens, While TV-Set Screen Time Drops".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 30, 2019 at 10:14 a.m.

    In the academic world, this is the media theory known as displacement. One media activity typically (but not always) displaces time spent with another media activity. It does not bode well at all for the future of HUT levels and PUT levels for affiliated stations. An entire generation is learning to graze in another pasture.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 30, 2019 at 1:23 p.m.

    Douglas, you make an interesting point but it also depends on the nature of the content plus how and when is it offered. Take the case of radio. Once upon a time radio was our primary in-home entertainment  medium with an average person spending about 3-4 hours per day listening---mainly in the evenings. Then came TV and it quickly captured the average person's time media time garnering about 3 hours per day at the outset and much more later---again, mostly in the evenings. But radio adapted. It lost most of its primetime shows and, with them, its big sponsors. But the rise of car radios and portables coupled with newer, more service or background oriented content---like various music formats, all- news and talk, soon found radio usage back at 2-3 hours per day---mainly in the daytime hours and, increasingly away from home.

    Fast forward to today and the meter studies reveal that digital media usage does not parrallel TV by time of day or location. Digital is biggest in the daytime hours where much of it occurs at work or other away-from-home locations; TV is biggest in the evenings where almost all of it is consumed at home. While streaming as a new form of TV consumption is on the rise, it, too, will grow mainly as an in-home activity, while digital video will probably be more spread out by time of day.

    The average person  needs only so much high intensity TV content---quality  dramas and sitcoms, sports specials like the Super Bowl, big political debates, election night coverage, etc. As a business proposition to addract ad dollars or woo potential subscribers, most of that will continue to come in primetime---no matter how it is transmitted to the viewer. Otherwise, we need less taxing, lighter content--talk shows, game shows, cooking shows, sitcom reruns, weather reports, news recaps, etc. which are consumed mainly in the daytime and fringe evening hours and are much cheaper to produce. Whatever form TV morphs into---and a hybrid situation will probably develop with various combinations of ad-supported and subscription services/networks---the consumers' basic needs will probably not change. So, in my opinion, it's not a lock that as digital usage rises "TV" will wither and die. The two will merge together until a comfortable and economically sustainable situation for both develops.

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