Have you ever heard a millennial complain about how 5 year olds are constantly playing on their ipads and iphones? Well, it is exactly this situation of young children having access to so many electronic devices that leads adults to believe that they are dependent upon this technology.
New research from Oxford alludes to the fact that children are not becoming more dependent, but rather they are adapting to include their devices in their everyday activities. Similar to adults, children are actually multi-tasking by performing tasks that they would do regardless of having available technology and using devices. This means that children are learning to multi-task earlier in their lives which is a considerable advantage considering multi-tasking is an essential part of life whether it be school or work.
The study also uncovered gender discrepancies in the use of technology with boys spending more time playing video games than girls. Whereas both genders spend a comparable amount of time using handheld devices (i.e phones and tablets), boys spend 50 minutes playing video games while girls spend a mere 9 minutes. It was found that girls spend more time socializing than playing video games.
The study was carried out by a senior research associate at Oxford's Centre for Time Use Research in the Department of Sociology by the name of Killian Mullan. The research incorporated 2 previous surveys in the UK from 200-2001 and 2014-2015 in order to define the change in children’s screen time.
The study proved to be the first of its kind in that it provided an accurate assessment on how much time children from the age range of 8-18 spend on devices. The study takes into account time watching TV, playing video games, being on the computer and the phone. The research especially focuses on the use of smart devices like smartphones and tablets. The study also provides context on the use of devices. For instance, if a teenager spends 3 hours a day on the his laptop, previous studies would assume they were playing games or being equally as unproductive. This study, moreover, would also say that 2 of the 3 hours spent on the computer was used to do homework.
Some of the findings of the survey include:
- Kids spent 10 minutes less time watching the television in 2015 than in 2000 on average.
- Kids spent 40 more minutes playing video games and being on the computer collectively in 2015 than in 2000.
- In total, kids spent 30 more minutes using devices in 2015 than in 2000 on average.
- Children in 2015 spent about 2 hours and 46 minutes using devices which is equal to about 20 hours per week
- Children claim that they use technology while at school (14 minutes), while socialising (13 minutes), while travelling (12 minutes), while studying (9 minutes), While eating (6 minutes), and while playing sports (3 minutes). This proves that children use devices while engaging is traditional activities thus showing their adaptation around technology.
This increase in screen time can be attributed to the fact that the internet is becoming more widely used in schools such that homework is shifting from paper to online. There also has been an increase in video game platforms as well as the games in general. Computers are another device that have become much more accessible as well as portable so they are used much more often.
“Our findings show that technology is being used with and in some cases perhaps to support other activities, like homework for instance, and not pushing them out. Just like we adults do, children spread their digital tech use throughout the day, while doing other things,” Mullan says.
A possible way Mullan hopes to expand this research is by also incorporating “family time” into the picture to understand how much time children are spending with family as well as on devices such as watching TV or movies with parents or siblings or even playing video games with brothers and sisters.