Media Overload? A Look at Exactly How Much Youth of Color Consume

Stokely Baksh, Colorines | June 15, 2011

In an age of ever-growing media dependence, everyone wants to know just how much media young people are consuming. A new study from Northwestern University sought an answer, and researchers found striking differences among racial and ethnic groups. They found that young people of color are consuming or using an average of 13 hours of media a day—nearly 4.5 hours more than white youth.

Compared to whites, minority youth watch TV from one to two hours more, listen to music almost an hour more, use the computer almost 1.5 hours more, and play video games 30 to 40 minutes longer per day, according to the study “Children, Media and Race: Media Use Among White, Black, Hispanic and Asian American Children.” (Rest assured, all groups of youth read for pleasure 30 to 40 minutes a day.) Data from the study was based on two Kaiser Family Foundation studies, a 2010 report on 2,002 8 to 18 year olds and a 2006 study on children from birth to age 6.

Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, said these trends illustrate why it’s so crucial that communities of color engage political debates over regulating media.

According to Cyril, many young people of color don’t think about the telecommunication and media industries that shape all the media and technology they’re consuming. “They absolutely have no idea that there are rules and policies that shape their use of media, like policies that govern children advertising to price gouging and competition,” Cyril said. “They don’t know when the costs go up from ‘a’ to ‘b’ and why that happens.”

The study also found that black and Latino youth were the biggest users of mobile phones, correlating with their adult counterparts who, as documented in other media usage studies, are the fastest growing and biggest users of mobile Web technology. Colorlines reported previously that despite this trend, advocates caution that mobile phones aren’t the sole answer to bridging the digital divide. They argue that broadband home connections remain costly and inaccessible and that mobile phones don’t replace the Internet and computers in activities like job seeking.  (Read more)