A report on media usage released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found some relatively good news for book publishers, amid findings that generally determined that eight- to 18-year-olds are consuming more digital media than ever. According to the report, called Generation M, total media usage by that age group rose to seven hours and 38 minutes per day in 2009, up from six hours and 21 minutes in the 2004 study.

Time spent with digital media rose in all categories, though the use of print media fell from an average of 43 minutes per day in 2004 to 38 minutes in 2009. And the percent of those surveyed (2,002 children age eight to 18 this year) who identify as readers dropped from 80% to 66%. However, the decline in print reading appears largely due to less time spent with magazines and newspapers.

The percentage of eight- to 18-year-olds who identify themselves as readers of books has held steady at around 46% since the first survey in 1999, while the amount of time spent reading books has increased slightly over that same 10-year period. In contrast, the report showed steep declines in the percentage of kids who read magazines (55% in 1999 to 35% in 2009) and newspapers (42% to 23%), though the time spent reading those materials has held steady among readers.

The 2009 study reported that kids
ages eight to 18 spend nearly an hour
and a half each day on the computer.
Photo: Joseph O. Holmes.

Back in 1999, the survey reported that kids and teens spent 21 minutes a day reading books and 27 minutes on the computer. This year’s survey demonstrates just how dramatically that gulf has widened: while book reading increased slightly, to 25 minutes daily in 2009, time spent on computers leaped from just over an hour in the 2004 survey to nearly an hour and a half each day. The majority of that time was spent on social networking sites (22 minutes), games (17 minutes), video sites like YouTube (15 minutes), and instant messaging (11 minutes); only two minutes were reportedly spent reading online.

The report also showed a major jump in the number of children age eight to 18 who own their own cell phones. That number increased from 39% overall in 2004 to 66% overall in 2009 (subdivided by age, 31% of kids 8 to 10 own their own cell phones, versus 69% for 11- to 14-year-olds and 85% for those age 15 to 18). And while eight- to 18-year-olds spent around 33 minutes each day talking on their phones, they spent 49 minutes with “cell phone media,” including music, games, and video. The study did not gather specific data about reading on cell phones—maybe in the next study.