A new study from Common Sense Media confirms what we all know -- our kids spend a lot of time with media. But the study also pulls the curtain back on the type of media children are spending the most time with and, contrary to what you might think after reading numerous headlines about the rise of tablets, smartphones and apps, TV is still on top.
The Common Sense Media report found that almost all children (98 percent) have at least one TV set at home -- making TV a bit of level playing field for children regardless of their socioeconomic status. However, only about half (53 percent) of lower-income families subscribe to cable TV or satellite, and given today's economic realities, that number is likely to decrease.
So what are the implications? Well, for one, we need to pay attention to what our kids are watching on TV. With all the hours kids spend tuning in, TV has the potential to be a great educator. As the Common Sense Media study found, "Television is the most popular platform for educational content among all children, especially those from lower-income families."
Only PBS, through local member stations in every community nationwide, provides high-quality children's television programming that is free, and specifically developed to help all children build reading, math, science and school readiness skills. In fact, independent research shows that children who watched episodes of PBS KIDS series Super WHY! scored 46 percent higher on standardized tests than those who didn't, and that media usage of PBS KIDS content can help close the achievement gap, particularly among kids living in poverty.
A growing body of research is showing the potential of smartphones, computers, tablets and new mobile devices to support learning and engage young children. But, as the Common Sense Media study confirms, there continues to be a digital divide, a wide gap in access to new technologies among children from higher-income homes and children who live in poverty. With so many promising new platforms, but with such limited access, we're missing a huge opportunity to serve America's children.
At PBS we're committed to developing high-quality, educational content for television and for new media platforms that we believe can help bridge this gap. Partnerships are key to ensuring that content that has the power to teach finds its way to children who need it most. Technology, business, government, foundation and community engagement partners are crucial participants in helping to close the digital divide, and put the promise of educational media content into the hands of all young learners.