Is the Achievement Gap a Media Gap?

by Robert Pondiscio
January 21st, 2010

The most interesting piece of data to emerge from a sobering new Kaiser Family Foundation study of children’s media consumption habits is the extraordinary disparity between Hispanic and Black youth and Whites.  As the New York Times notes, the study shows kids 8 to 18 now spend practically every waking minute using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device.  Much of the news coverage noted the apparent correlation between heavy media use and poor grades.  But the data also showed an enormous difference in the amount of time different demographic groups spend in front of a screen.

Hispanic and Black youth average about 13 hours of media exposure daily (13:00 for Hispanics and 12:59 for Blacks), compared to just over 8½ hours (8:36) among Whites. Some of the biggest race-related differences emerge for television time: Black youth spend nearly six hours daily watching TV and Hispanics spend 5:21, compared to 3:36 for Whites.

Another big takeaway in the report:  only 30% of young people report having any limits set by parents on the amount of time they can spend watching TV or playing video games, while 36% say the same about using the computer.  ”But when parents do set limits, children spend less time with media: those with any media rules consume nearly 3 hours less media per day (2:52) than those with no rules,” the report finds. 



  1. On a positive note, there are more and more media and technology-based applications that are learning related. Parents could learn to compromise with their children and allow them to have fun as well as learn (or both at the same time) with the different options out there.

    Comment by online colleges — January 21, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

  2. I have to wonder if it’s more of a class difference than a racial one. My DH is white & comes from a modest background. The TV is on at my in-laws’ home as background noise from the minute someone wakes up until the minute the last person goes to bed. Drives me absolutely bonkers whenever I visit them! By contrast, the non-white kids in the affluent neighborhood where I grew up were fairly light TV watchers just like the white kids in the neighborhood.

    Given that a higher percentage of African-Americans and Latinos are low-income, I’d like to see a breakdown of the data to see whether whites have a lower media use when income is held constant.

    Comment by Crimson Wife — January 21, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

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