So, Minority Kids Use More Media: Much Ado About Nothing?

6 years ago

A recent study released by Northwestern University, found that young people of colour (Black, Latino and East Asian ) are watching on average of thirteen hours of media (television, Internet, movies, video games, music) a day – four and a-half hours more than white children.

From Colorlines:

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.

According to the Northwestern University report:

  • Generally, 8-18 year olds are watching more television than anything else Black children are watching approximately 1.5 hours more television a day than White kids,
  • More Black children have mobile phones (“Smartphones or PDA’s) than children of other ethnicities / cultural backgrounds Asian kids are more likely to own a laptop and a handheld game player than children of other ethnicities / cultural backgrounds,
  • White children were more likely to own a IPod / MP3 player than children of other ethnicities.
  • Broadband Internet access was less likely to be found in African-American homes

So what do we do with this information? Should parents panic with worry? Should they turn off the television and spend more time with their kids, or stop buying their kids electronic devices?

Northwestern Professor Ellen Wartella, who directed the study and heads the Center on Media and Human Development in the School of Communication, says,

“Our study is not meant to blame parents... We hope to help parents, educators and policymakers better understand how children’s media use may influence health and educational disparities.”

For some bloggers and commenters, this is all much ado about nothing. After all, people have become wary of “polls,” “studies” and “reports”, wondering if there isn’t a hidden agenda to make minority parents feel embarrassed and ashamed. From a commenter on the Colorlines article:

African American and Latino young people have a lot of REAL problems in America (unemployment, a school system that fails them, police abuse and above all, American institutionalized racism).

In light of that fact, why all this handwringing about this invented "problem" of Black,Latino and Asian youth spending "too much" time using electronic media?

But does race really play a factor as to how long children spend glued in front of the TV set?

There seems to be more comments leading to class differences being a factor in how much time children are spending with technology. From

The problem isn't race, it's culture ...I would love to see what talents are being buried by those living in the welfare and entitlement culture, the victim culture. Maybe without the entitlements, without the rules that make idleness easy, we would be able to see how greatness come from these people.

On the other hand, a friend of mine told me about the struggle she was having with her 14 year-old daughter. The Black teenager wanted a Blackberry because all of her friends had one. She had done all the research on the data plans and presented it to her mother, but her mother was still on the fence. My friend confided that she didn’t want to put the phone on her plan in case her daughter racked up a huge phone bill and would ruin her credit.

“Does she have a part-time job? Perhaps you could tell her that she has to wait until she gets one so she can pay for it herself,” I suggested.

“No, it’s not just that. I know her friend’s parents. I’m pretty sure they give their kids phones as a way to make up for the fact that they don’t spend enough time with them. They figure if they buy them electronics, put a TV in their rooms, than the kids will take care of themselves.” More importantly, she added, she wanted to monitor what her child was doing online. As a single parent who works long hours, she wants to ensure that her daughter was getting her homework done and having face-to – face interactions with her friends instead of being glued to a technological device.

For her, while there might have been an added emphasis because her daughter is Black, and therefore an added importance that she concentrate on her studies to get to college (as the numbers attending are low), the main concern was that a smart phone not be a replacement for ‘real-life’ responsibilities and activities. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

All of that time kids spend on electronic devices means that many of them are “going to miss out on a lot of important things, especially face-to-face contact,” says Eleanor Mackey, a clinical psychologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who says the fact that so many families are eating dinner with the TV on is “alarming.”

I also have to wonder, why is this report being perceived in a negative light? Couldn’t it be perceived as a positive, that minority children are perhaps more technologically advanced than White children? But why is race even a factor on the overall problem that we are all spending inordinate amounts of our time staring at our computers and TV’s?

From a comment on Imperfect Parent:

Why is this even a topic?? Why is race even a factor?? Half of the world rely on Media entirely too much period–simple and plain. So sick of every story released being divided up among races. In my opinion (since its being broken down) minorities spend more time at home with their parents who are also watching the televison with them, where as whites are constantly putting their children off on others. Whether its a nanny who keeps them away from the television, or forcing them into “after-school” activities that the majority of them don't want to do. So of course they wont have time. Pretty sure more of them want to be web surfing, or glued to the set just as any other child after a LONG hard day at school.

What do you think? Is this study much ado about nothing, or should we be concerned about the media consumption of all of our kids? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Contributing EditorRace, Ethnicity & Culture

Blog: Writing is Fighting:

Writer: Hellbound:

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