Study: Children Under 5 Are Spending More Time Online

Of the children under 5 in the United States who use the Internet, 80% use it on a weekly basis, according to a new report by the non-profit Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Sesame Workshop. The report, titled "Always Connected", put together data from seven recent studies, and shows that small children are using all types of digital media, often using more than one type of media at once.

Internet use still pales in comparison to the ever-present TV, as television use accounts for 47% of the time that children spend on all types of media. The analysis of the studies found that most children spend at least three hours a day watching television, and television use among preschoolers is at an eight year high.

In fact, what most children are doing on the internet is – you guessed it – watching videos. In one study, parents indicated that over 60% of children under 3 watch videos online. As a parent, I can tell you that my kids (2 and 5) love YouTube, and also will watch our silly JibJab holiday video repeatedly and year-round. As children get older, that percentage decreases, most likely because school age children are, well, at school for most of the day. However, even children 8 to 18 report that of the video content they watch, about 20% of it is online, on cellphones, or on other portable devices. Also, 36% of children age 2 to 11 watch television and use the internet at the same time, according to a 2010 Nielsen study.

The "Always Connected" report did not attempt to tackle the question of whether all this media consumption is good for children, but encourages balance. In a press release, Dr. Lewis Bernstein, executive president of Sesame Workshop said, "My mother used to say that too much of anything isn't good for you, whether it be eating only protein, shooting hoops all day or 'always being connected' to the digital world." One interesting finding: time spent reading books has remained constant, even with screen time increasing. 90% of 5 to 9 year olds spend at least an hour a day reading printed books.

[via The Joan Ganz Cooney Center]