Kids spend more time in a virtual, instead of a natural world

According to the study, the average American youngster now spends practically every waking minute, except for time in school, using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device. Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with less than six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not include the hour and a half that is spent texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cell phones.

And since most are youngsters are multitasking and surfing the Internet while listening to music or texting while online, they manage to pack nearly 11 hours of combined media content into that seven and a half hours.

The study's findings shocked its authors, who had concluded in 2005 that use could not possibly grow further. It also confirmed the fears of many parents whose children are constantly tethered to these media devices. It found, moreover, that heavy media use is associated with several negatives, including behavior problems and lower grades.

The recent study revealed that media consumption has grown far more in the last five years than it did from 1999 to 2004. The increase is believed to be due to sophisticated mobile 'smart phone' technology and portable, electronic devices such as iPods and video downloads which allow teens to access media in their pocket or beds. Youths now report spending more time listening to or watching media on their cell phones, or playing games, than talking on them. In less than a decade, cell phones have morphed from a communications tool to an entertainment device.

Additionally, electronics are available to the kids 24/7, as one child explained, "At night, I can text or watch something on You Tube until I fall asleep. It lets me talk on the phone and watch a video at the same time, or listen to music while I send text messages. I also use it as an alarm clock since it has a really annoying, ring tone!"

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