Trends in Youth Media Use | ACMA

Trends in Youth Media Use

Background information

Insights from the Kaiser Family Foundation's Generation M2 2009 (USA), and results from the ACMA's Media and communications in Australian families 2007

In January 2010, Kaiser published Generation M2 - Media in the Lives of 8-to 18-Year-Olds (Generation M2), the report of the third wave of research Kaiser has undertaken on media use by American youth. This report provides a detailed look at current media use patterns among young Americans, and documents changes since the first two waves of the study, in 1999 and 2004.

In 2007, the ACMA commissioned Media and Communications in Australian Families 2007 (MCAF 2007), a research project on children and young people's use of electronic media and communications within the context of other leisure activities. This report provides an important evidence base about young Australians' use of media and includes comparisons with the 1995 study Families and Electronic Media, when the media environment for children was very different.

Trends in media use by children and young people: Insights from the Kaiser Family Foundation's Generation M2 2009 (USA), and results from the ACMA's MCAF 2007 presents findings from both studies together with relevant findings from the ABS 2009 research Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities.

Information presented

While the three studies cannot be directly compared, due to differences in methodologies, trends and patterns of media use can be usefully presented together. Information covered in the report (448 kb) includes:

  • overall media use
  • watching television content
  • mobile phone use
  • listening to music
  • playing video and computer games
  • computers and the internet

Key findings

  • Generation M2 found young Americans aged eight to18 years spent an average seven hours and 38 minutes consuming media in a typical day in 2009-an extra one hour and 17 minutes with media per day since 2004. The research shows that this increase can be largely attributed to widespread adoption and use of new mobile and online devices, in particular media-enabled mobile phones and MP3 devices such as the iPod (Fig 1).
  • There were strong demographic differences in media use levels by American youth.
    • African American and Hispanic youth consumed considerably more media than 'Other' American young people-an average of over nine hours of media per day for African American and Hispanic youth in 2009, compared with an average six hours and 22 minutes of media per day for 'Other' American youth.
    • Young Americans aged 11 to 14 years also reported notably high levels of media use in 2009 (an average eight hours and 40 minutes media use per day).
  • While the Generation M2 and MCAF 2007 studies cannot be directly compared, it is apparent that American youth consume more media content across all platforms than their Australian counterparts-an average seven hours and 38 minutes per day of media for young Americans in 2009. This is more than the seven hours and two minutes of total discretionary time available to Australian young people, of which a total of four hours and 49 minutes per day was spent consuming media in 2007.
  • The most popular media activity for both American and Australian youth is viewing television and television like content. In 2009 new media platforms had transformed the way American young people watched television. They spent 59 per cent (or two hours and 39 minutes) of their total daily viewing time watching live television on a television set, and 41 per cent (or one hour and fifty minutes) consuming television content in other ways-on demand/recorded content, online, on DVDs, or via mobile devices including mobile phones and iPods).
  • Australian children and young people in 2007 spent a much greater proportion of total viewing time consuming content via traditional broadcast television (approximately 78 per cent of viewing was through live television for Australian eight to 17-year-olds). However, there was evidence that young Australians were starting to access content across new platforms in 2007, with 18 per cent of eight to17-year-olds reported watching video content on the internet for an average seven minutes per day.(Figures 5 and 6)
  • MCAF 2007 found that for Australian youth, online participation was the second most time-consuming media activity behind television viewing, reflecting the high levels of internet and broadband access among Australian families.
    • MCAF 2007 found that the vast majority of Australian families had the internet at home (91 per cent), and three-quarters (76 per cent) had broadband. This compares with 84 per cent of American families with the internet in 2009, and 59 per cent with wireless or high-speed internet.
  • For American youth, the second most popular media activity was listening to music. Time spent listening to music by American eight to 18-year-olds increased from an average one hour and 44 minutes per day in 2004, to an average two hours and 19 minutes per day in 2009-largely due to new platforms and devices that enable young people to spend more time with music, such as the iPod and other MP3 players, mobile phones, and laptop computers (for listening through programs such as iTunes and to internet radio). Time spent listening to music was especially high for African-American and Hispanic youth.
  • In 2009 mobile phones were also truly multimedia devices for American youth. On a typical day, eight to 18-year-olds reported spending an average 49 minutes listening to music, playing games, or watching television content on a mobile phone.
  • While levels of mobile phone ownership among high-school-aged children are similar in both Australia and America, American children are more likely to acquire a mobile phone earlier than Australian children. Thirty-one per cent of American eight to10-year-olds had a mobile in 2009 (Generation M2), compared with 23 per cent of Australian children aged nine to 11 years with a mobile in 2009 (ABS).

Figure 1: Generation M2-Media use over time; among all eight to 18-year-olds average amount of time spent with each medium per day in 2009, 2004 and 1999



TV content: includes 'live TV', 'time-shifted TV', DVDs viewed on a TV set or a computer, and TV or movies viewed on a mobile phone, MP3 player, or online.

Music/audio: includes time spent listening to music on radios, CDs, mobile phones, iPods and other MP3 players, and on a computer, such as through iTunes or internet radio.

Computers: time spent using a computer includes both online and offline activities. It includes time spent using the computer for entertainment purposes, such as playing games, sending or receiving instant messages, doing graphics, going to social networking sites, reading magazines or newspapers online, watching or posting videos on sites like YouTube, or surfing other websites. It does not include time spent using the computer for school work, or time spent using the computer for watching DVDs, TV or listening to music.

Video games: includes time spent playing on either a console or handheld gaming device (including a mobile phone). Does not include time spent playing computer games.

Total media exposure: refers to the amount of media content young people consume in a day-obtained by adding up the amount of time spent watching TV content, listening to music, using the computer, and playing video games.

Total media use: takes into account 'multi-tasking', and is calculated by reducing media exposure by the proportion of time during which such media-multitasking occurs.

Note: Time spent texting or talking on a mobile phone is not counted as time spent using media in the Generation M2 study.

Figure 5: Generation M2


Figure 6: MCAF 2007

The ACMA is Australia's regulator for broadcasting, the internet, radiocommunications and telecommunications. The ACMA's strategic intent is to make communications and media work in Australia's public interest. For more information:

Last updated: 26 July 2017