A new study finds there's a huge difference in how much white and nonwhite children consume media.
A new study at Northwestern University found a huge difference between the amount of media white and nonwhite kids consume. Minority children ages 8 to 18 consume an average of 13 hours of media content a day—about 4-and-a-half hours more than their white counterparts. In the last ten years, this number has doubled for black children and quadrupled for Hispanics.
The report finds that minority children spend one to two additional hours each day watching TV and videos, approximately an hour more listening to music, up to an hour and a half more on computers, and 30 to 40 minutes more playing video games than their white counterparts.
Given the well-documented problem of the “digital divide” between rich and poor, and white and nonwhite, this may initially be a bit confusing. But it's the media equivalent of the obesity epidemic in poor and minority communities: There's a lot of stuff to consume, but it's not very nutritious. For instance, the study found that black and Latino youth were the biggest users of mobile phones, which echoes other studies that found their adult counterparts are the fastest growing and biggest users of mobile Web technology. Phone Internet is a poor substitute for a high-speed connection—especially when it comes to job-seeking—but this may be the only option for these youths. We still need to put pressure on government bodies to tackle Internet deserts.
Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, notes at Colorlines that this media overload is just a sign of the lack of community infrastructure and stress relief in these kids’ neighborhoods. “Recreation facilities are being decimated,” she said. “Arts programs are being decimated. Basically all the places a person goes to transform stress.”
These findings also show that there’s a huge disconnect between what consumers look like and who’s represented in the media they’re consuming. It's important that kids have access to current technology, but media literacy—the ability to understand the forces and biases that shape what they watch and listen to—is just as important. When people roll their eyes at activism surrounding media justice and pop culture, I just remember how much magazines like Bitch and books like The Beauty Myth sparked my own social awareness when I was a teen. Educating kids about the media not only helps them understand their world, but also prepares them to have a say in what gets produced.
first photo (cc) by Flickr user jeff_kontur, second photo from the Center on Media and Human Development/School of Communication Northwestern University