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Latino and black children have highest rates of media usage — and it shows

LatinaLista — A new national study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, reinforced what too many Latino and black families already knew — our children spend way too much time in front of the television, walking around with earplug cords dangling around their necks or playing games on their cell phones.

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There are substantial differences in children’s media use between members of various ethnic and racial groups. Black and Hispanic children consume nearly 4½ hours more media daily (13:00 of total media exposure for Hispanics, 12:59 for Blacks, and 8:36 for Whites).

Some of the largest differences are in TV viewing: Black children spend nearly 6 hours and Hispanics just under 5½ hours, compared to roughly 3½ hours a day for White youth.

The only medium where there is no significant difference between these three groups is print. Differences by race/ethnicity remain even after controlling for other factors such as age, parents’ education, and single vs. two-parent homes. The racial disparity in media use has grown substantially over the past five years: for example, the gap between White and Black youth was just over two hours (2:12) in 2004, and has grown to more than four hours today (4:23).

At one time, media consisted of TV and radio. Nowadays, it’s the computer, iPod, Internet, network TV, cable TV and mobile telephones with all their features — all embraced by youth of color.

The first thought is how can exposure and knowledge of such a vast array of technology be a bad thing? Obviously, it’s what kind of content that they’re viewing or listening to that is impacting their grades and possibly their self-esteem.

According to the study, those children identified as “heavy users” of media, which can only be surmised as being majority Latino and black children, reported having lower grades in school (C or lower) and being unhappy, bored and troublemakers.

The obvious lessons learned from this report, aside from how different are parenting styles among different racial groups, are that while knowing how to operate and manipulate technology can be a good thing, the content itself is what all parents need to be vigilant about.

From the music (lyrics?) to the TV shows (sexually/violently/profanely explicit?) to the Internet (age-appropriate sites?) to the video games (violently explicit?) to the amount of time spent with each media that makes interacting with friends and family an impatient and laborious act, high media usage among Hispanic and black children is something that needs to be addressed with even bigger questions.

Is it because of this high exposure to visual and audio media that black and Latino children are:

  • More prone to drop out of school?
  • Engage in risky and violent behavior at earlier ages?
  • Have little to no respect for authority?
  • Are more prone to have delusional/unrealistic views of personal success?

Without trying to censor what is already there, it’s time to create new content that is edgy enough to appeal to children who are tech-savvy and media critics within their own rights but leaves them knowing they still have a lot to learn.

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  • Elsa Greno
    January 23, 2010 at 11:06 am

    This is an accurate view of youth and technology today. They are all “connected” to their phones and iPods. To the extent that they are not learning anything if it’s not in digital format. They are given these gadgets without limitations and restrictions from parents. It’s crushing their academic grades and limiting their critical thinking. All schools should talk to parents about setting limits. I work at a school and we see electronic devices everywhere. But they forget to bring their pencis and pens for taking class notes. It’s so challenging to get the message through to them, to put down the phone and pay attention to their teachers.

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