Teens’ Most Common – and Preferred – Media Activities

November 5, 2015

This article is included in these additional categories:

Media & Entertainment | Men | Mobile Phone | Social Media | Tablet | Teens & Younger | TV Audiences & Consumption | Video | Videogames | Women

CommonSenseMedia-Media-Usage-Enjoyment-US-Teens-Nov2015Teens (aged 13-18) in the US spend roughly 9 hours per day with media, including more than 6-and-a-half hours with screen media, reports Common Sense Media in a new study. Listening to music and watching TV emerge as the most frequent media activities among this demographic, though TV takes a backseat to video games among favored activities.

The study is based on a nationally representative survey of more than 2,600 tweens (8-12) and teens (13-18), with teens representing slightly more than half of the respondents. Among these teens, almost two-thirds (66%) report listening to music every day, with a majority (58%) also watching TV on a daily basis. Somewhat surprisingly, fewer than half (45%) say that they use social media every day, with online video viewing (34%) and mobile game playing (27%) further behind.

Likewise, listening to music tops the charts when it comes to enjoyable media activities, with close to three-quarters (73%) of teens saying they enjoy this activity “a lot.” TV trails in the second spot, bringing a lot of enjoyment to 45% of teens, rivaled by watching online videos (also 45%). Somewhat surprisingly again, social media is further down the list, with only 36% of teens saying they enjoy using social media “a lot.”

In fact, social media is passed on the enjoyment stakes by playing video games. While only 15% of teens reported playing console video games every day, 42% say they enjoy doing so “a lot.” And when teens were asked to identify their single favorite media activity, playing video games (15% share) fell second only to listening to music (30%). Social media ranked more highly on this measure, with 10% of teens saying it’s their favorite media activity, on par with reading (also 10%) and slightly ahead of watching TV (9%).

There are some notable gender-based differences in teens’ favorite media activities, however. For example, 27% of boys surveyed said that playing video games is their favorite activity, compared to just 2% of girls. That made video games the preferred activity overall among boys, ahead of listening to music, the favorite for 22% (as opposed to 37% of girls).

Girls were also far more likely than boys to cite reading and social media as their favorite activities (14% vs. 5% in each case).


Although watching TV is ahead of online video viewing among teens in both daily viewership and preference, digital platforms do play a significant role in teens’ TV and video viewing. Breaking down all of TV and video viewing time among teens, the study notes that live TV captures half of that time, with time-shifted TV capturing another 8%. But 36% of video time is apportioned to online videos (22%) and TV on digital platforms (14%), with smartphones being the device most commonly used to watch video digitally. (See here for more on teens’ traditional TV viewing trends.)

In total, the report indicates that the media activities that occupy the most daily time per day for teens are:

  • Watching TV/DVDS/videos (2:38);
  • Listening to music (1:54);
  • Playing video, computer or mobile games (1:21); and
  • Using social media (1:11).

These were the only media activities to average at least one hour of use per day among teens. By comparison, teens average slightly more than a half-hour per day browsing websites (36 minutes) and slightly less than half reading (28 minutes).

About the Data: Full methodological details can be found in the study by accessing the link above.

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