Yoof of today getting square eyes

The amount of time kids spend staring at screens is rising at an alarming rate, according to research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study (221kb pdf) says that the massive increase in mobile media is driving the dramatic change and that some kids are consuming more media than there are waking hours in the day, because they are able to process several streams at once. Watching the TV, listening to an iPod and playing a PSP game at the same time, for example.

According to the report, which was based on interviews with thousands of American youngsters, today's 8-18 year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media across a typical day. That works out to over 53 hours a week, more time than most adults spend at work. And because they spend so much of that time media multitasking they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those seven and-a-half hours.

Access to smartphones and portable media players means kids have access to media 24 hours a day and use of mobile devices is increasing rapidly. Over the past five years the proportion of children owning mobile phones has risen from 39 per cent to 66 per cent. Ownership of iPods and other portable media players has risen from 18 per cent to a startling 76 per cent.

With Apple's various flavours of iPod holding a reported 74 per cent of the market, that's a hell of a lot of sets of familiar white earbuds hanging out of teenagers' lugholes.

Only a third of kids have rules about viewing set by their parents and nearly half say that the TV is left on most of the time in their homes.

Is it any wonder that we are producing a generation of slack-jawed wastrels whose only ambition in life is to be rich and famous? (Good grief I'm starting to sound like my dad!).

In the words of the great Arthur Brown, the only thing I hate about young people is that I'm no longer one of them.

Some proper children playing outside (I can remember when it was all fields 'round here)