Report Says Kids Spend More Time Watching Online Videos Than Doing Any Other Activity on Their Digital Devices

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When children flip open their computers or pick up mobile devices, they spend more time watching online videos than doing any other activity on their screens, a new survey reveals.

The survey, detailed in the Common Sense Media report “The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight,” is based on a survey of more than 1,440 parents from all regions of the country and from various demographic backgrounds. Some of the most significant finding about children’s consumption of video content include the following:

  • On average, children from birth to age 8 spend about 2 1/2 hours of time per day consuming media on their screens.
  • Watching online video on media platforms such as YouTube now constitutes the largest proportion of children’s total television and video viewing. Their video consumption now averages about 39 minutes a day. That’s more double the amount of time reported by the survey three years ago.
  • Children from lower-income households spend an average of close to two hours a day more with screen media than children from higher-income households.
  • Watching some type of video content, such as DVDs, television shows, or online videos, accounts for nearly three-quarters of all screen time usage by children.

It’s important to note that these findings were collected prior to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020 that shuttered schools and sent children home for virtual learning. Prior to the pandemic, children’s screen use for electronic reading, homework and video chatting accounted for small percentages (3%, 1% and 1%, respectively) of the total amount of screen usage.

Interestingly, approximately 60% of parents whose children regularly use screen media forms say that their children spend “the right amount of time” with screens. Three-quarters of the parents surveyed also report satisfaction with the amount and quality of educational media available to their children.

Also reported among 5- to 8-year-olds, media use tends to be more independent, mobile, and social compared to younger children. “Most screen use among children this age occurs without their parents,” the report observes. “Parental co-use goes down dramatically as the child’s age goes up: The proportion of parents who say they use media ‘most of the time’ with their 5- to 8-year-old child ranges from 11% to 19%, depending on the media activity (compared to 37% to 62% for parents of children younger than age 2). More than two-thirds (67%) of 5- to 8-year-olds have their own mobile device. Among 5- to 8-year-olds, 44% of parents say their child spends too much time with media, and nearly half (47%) say that it can be difficult to get their child to stop using media.”

Common Sense Media is a national organization helping families to better understand media and advocating for better media-related policies. Find more details on the survey at


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