Children Using Media
Introduction With the rise of new technologies, the personal computer and the Internet are becoming central to the daily lives of children and young people. But how do these new forms of media influence the use and uptake of traditional media, such as books and television? This feature looks at previous research in the area and then sets the current agenda using some key findings from a major study, Children and the Changing Media Environment in Europe. It shows that as a result of new entertainment like including computer games and the Internet, traditional hobbies such as reading may be in retreat.
Since the coming of television it has been widely feared that reading will become a pallid second choice for children and teenagers. While early research indicated that only comic-book reading was affected by the advent of the box, some later findings confirmed fears that television consumption does indeed make inroads into time spent in book reading. With the rise of interactive media, the question is live once more. How much time are children spending on interactive media in comparison with other media, and what is the attraction of interactive media?
Earlier studies have consistently shown television to be the most time-consuming medium in terms of frequency and length of use. With the onset of adolescence, however, young people have been found to spend an increasing amount of time listening to audio media. Reading usually comes a poor third. Most studies have also found that children from low socio-economic status families spend more time watching television and video, whereas children from high socio-economic status families spend more time reading and using personal computers for internet, e-mail and CD-ROMs. However, with the arrival of interactive media we could well expect to see these new technologies impact on reading and displace the time spent with the written word, regardless of socio-economic status. First we should acquaint ourselves with the facts from the latest research findings. This study surveyed some 11,000 6-16 year olds in 11 countries around Europe including Israel.
How many ever use each medium?
How long do they spend?
Why do they turn to particular
There are indications that electronic games are increasingly valued for mood control and entertainment, and other types of PC use for informational purposes. Electronic games rank second, behind television and video, when children indicate which medium they would choose for excitement or to stop being bored. When young people are asked what they would choose if they wanted to learn about something, PC and the internet come in second behind books but before television and newspapers.
However, closer inspection again shows a considerable gender difference in the perceived functionality of electronic games. Girls rank electronic games fourth behind television, audio media and books for excitement, and in joint third place with books behind television and audio media to fight boredom. Interestingly, however, girls are as likely as boys to associate PCs with learning, despite the large gender difference in time expenditure.
Is reading an activity in
Although this cross-sectional study cannot presume to provide causal evidence about possible displacement effects of interactive media on reading, there are some findings that at very least add fuel to the suspicion that the rise of interactive media may have had a negative effect on children's reading. Even if the increased used of electronic games has not affected the sum total of children's reading time, it is certain that the time spent on audiovisual media overall has been increased by the introduction of electronic games.
The proliferation of interactive media in the homes of European children has therefore had substantial consequences for their media-time expenditure. Electronic games have conquered the third position behind television and audio media, taking up more leisure time than the various print media. The third place of electronic games in leisure time expenditure was found across all age and SES groups. However, this finding mainly holds for boys only. Among girls, electronic games rank fourth, because girls spend twice as much time reading books as they do playing electronic games. The finding that girls are less attracted to electronic games may be attributed to the content of such games and the perception that the computer in all its manifestations is a boy's thing. This perception may in turn explain why girls spend less time on serious PC use than boys do.
On the other hand the more serious information oriented use of computers and the internet has to be taken into account. Even if time spent on these media is directly at the expense of time previously spent with print media, it still can't be claimed that reading is reduced because both the internet and other serious uses of the PC require considerable amount of reading.
The future of children's media
article has been adapted from a chapter in the book 'Children and their
changing media environment', edited by Sonia Livingstone and Moira Bovill,
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001.