Youngest Kids Watch More TV, Commercials

November 3, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Food & Restaurants | Media & Entertainment | Television | Youth & Gen X

American children ages 2-5 now spend more than 32 hours each week watching TV, while older children between ages 6 and 11 – who generally attend school for longer hours – spend about 28 hours in front of a television screen, according to a recent analysis by Nielsen. These numbers indicate that US kids are “watching more and more television than they have in years,” Nielsen said.


Live vs. Recorded

While 97% of kids’ viewing is still done through live TV, the analysis found that younger kids spend more time than their older counterparts viewing via DVR, DVD and, to a lesser extent, VCR. Some 4% of kids ages 2-5 watch via those devices on average across a total day, compared with 2.3% for those ages 6-11.

Nielsen noted that such heavy use of such devices at a young ages indicates that today’s kids likely be able to adopt new devices comfortably as they grow up.

Piling on the? Commercials

The analysis also revealed that younger kids ages 2-5 watch more commercials than those ages 6-11, and also watch commercials in playback mode more often than older kids and adults. Moreover, they watch their favorite shows over and over and over on DVD, VOD and DVR.


For their part, older kids may not use the DVR, DVD and VCR as much as the very young, but they spend twice as much time playing video games – 2 hours 23 minutes a week compared with 1 hour 12 minutes for those ages 2-5.

Internet usage among older kids is also significantly higher as nearly half of kids 6-11 spent time on the internet in August 2009 vs. 20% of kids 2-5.

Screen Time up Across Board

This trend of increased viewing among children mirrors the overall increase in media consumption Nielsen has been tracking for the past several years across TV, internet, games and mobile phones. Previous three-screen research found that the amount of TV watched by all age groups is rising across the board.

The average American now watches an all-time high of more than 141 minutes of TV each month. But while time-shifting via DVR is on the rise, video viewing on other platforms – such as mobile and online – is also rising, it does not appear to be taking time away from the TV set.

TV Drives Kids Online and to Junk Food

Research from other organizations also finds that increases in TV and commercial watching causes children to increase other behaviors. A study by Mediamark Research found that nearly half (46%) of children ages 6-11 have visited a website to learn more about a product they saw in a TV commercial or ad, and this propensity increases with age.

In a less-positive development on the commercial-watching front, researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity discovered this year that children and adults who watch TV food ads, especially those for unhealthy products, are more likely to snack on foods at hand, and are potentially at higher risk of becoming obese.

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