SAN FRANCISCO: American children aged eight and under now spend 48 minutes a day on mobile devices, up from just five minutes in 2011, a new report has found.

And in another startling development over the past six years, it has emerged that more than four in ten (42%) own their own tablet device compared with just 1% in 2011.

These are two of the headline findings in the latest Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight report, an ongoing study into children’s media habits which was last released in 2013.

Produced by Common Sense, a non-profit advocacy group, the third and latest instalment involved an online survey of 1,454 parents of children aged eight and under.

It revealed that nearly all (95%) of these families now have a smartphone, up from 63% in 2013 and 41% in 2011, and 78% have a tablet – up from 40% in 2013 and 8% in 2011.

According to the parents, nearly half (49%) of children aged eight or under often or sometimes watch TV or videos, or play video games in the hour before bedtime.

And 10% of these kids have a “smart” toy that connects to the internet, while a similar proportion (9%) have a voice-activated virtual assistant device, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Interestingly, the survey also found that families with young children are now more likely to subscribe to video services like Netflix or Hulu (72%) than they are to cable TV (65%).

Elsewhere, the survey confirmed that the “digital divide” between higher and lower income families has been closing rapidly over the past few years.

Since 2011, the gap has reduced from 50 percentage points to 22, so that 96% of higher income families now have high-speed internet along with three-quarters (74%) of lower income families.

James P. Steyer, CEO of Common Sense, described the closing digital divide as a “very positive development for our country”, but he sounded a note of caution about the sheer amount of media now being consumed by young Americans.

“Over the last six years, we have seen massive growth in media use and tablet ownership, and we haven’t even begun to experience the explosion of new technologies like virtual reality and voice-activated assistants in our homes,” he said.

“If we want to ensure our kids develop well and are successful in life, we have to make sure they get the most out of tech while protecting them from potential risks – and that means paying close attention to the role media is playing in their lives.”

Sourced from Common Sense; additional content by WARC staff