November 2013

Teen Media Use Part 1 - Increasing and On the Move

In recent years, innovations in Internet and mobile technologies have created opportunities for adolescents to use media and connect in new ways. In this first of two e-updates on adolescent media use, we will look at how youth are interacting with media, especially TV, computers, and mobile devices. In the next issue, we will look at teens’ social media use.

Shifting Technology Use

New technologies are altering how adolescents use and interact with media. Television is still the primary source of video (see figure), but adolescents are increasing their media watching on other devices.1 In one report, adolescents ages 12 to 17 spent nearly eight hours per month (about seven percent of their video viewing time) watching video on a mobile phone, the highest amount and percentage of any group between the ages of 12 to 34. 1

Increasing Creativity and Interactivity

Teens are becoming active participants in creating or posting media, with over a quarter (27 percent) of those ages 12 to 17 uploading videos to the Internet (up from 14 percent in 2006).2 They are also increasingly connected—when looking at texting alone, the median number of texts sent and received per day for youth ages 14 to 17 increased from 60 in 2009 to 100 in 2011.3  

Leveraging Mobile for Health

Send a health e-card to a friend, locate a health center or hotline, keep a list of medications, or play a game to solve a disease outbreak, all from a smart phone or tablet! Adolescents and others interested in having health information available on a mobile device can find descriptions of 33 HHS-sponsored apps for iPhones, Androids, iPod Touches, iPads, Blackberries, Blackberry tablets, Android tablets, Palm OS/web OS and Windows Mobile.

Media Use by the Numbers

Media use is the amount of time per day spent using media such as television, computers, and audio devices; it doesn’t include talking or texting on a mobile phone or using a computer for school. Adolescents (ages eight to 18) spend an average of seven and a half hours per day using such media – check out the graphic below for information on their device ownership.4

Internet Use by Adolescents: In 2012, 95 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 used the Internet, and one in four teens primarily accessed the Internet via their mobile phone.6

Health Impact

Media use is not without consequence on health.  Studies find that high levels of media use are associated with academic problems, problems with sleep, unhealthy eating, and more.7-11 The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that adolescents have less than two hours of screen time per day,7,11 and summarized media’s health impact as follows:

  • Increased media use is associated with childhood obesity.  Studies have found that physical activity decreases as screen time increases.7 Additionally, those who watch more TV than the average adolescent tend to have poorer diets—consuming more calories or higher-fat diets, drinking more sodas, and eating fewer fruits and vegetables.7   
  • Watching TV can interfere with sleep. Watching TV for three hours a day doubles an adolescent’s risk for having difficulty falling asleep, compared with those watching TV for less than one hour a day.7

Research indicates there are also some potential positive effects of media:

  • Health professionals can use media to promote people’s health. TV shows can share important information on various health topics.12-14 Also, mobile technology presents ever-new opportunities for delivering health interventions, such as reminders for physical activity or tobacco quitting tips.15-17       

Tips for Parents 

  • Keep TVs and computers in common spaces used by the whole family.18,20
  • Supervise what your teens are doing with media, including what they’re watching or playing.18-20 Establish reasonable but firm rules about mobile phones, texting, Internet, and social media use through a family media plan that everyone in your house follows. Watch TV, movies, and videos with your teen, and use it in a way to talk about important family values. This dialogue can promote critical viewing skills and begin conversations about health and unhealthy behaviors.20 Find more strategies here.
  • Be good media role models; emphasize alternate activities and create an “electronic media-free” environment in children’s bedrooms.18-21 Recent evidence suggests that parents’ use of media is highly influential in shaping children’s use (even more so than rules or access).21
  • Know help is out there. One good resource is, the federal government’s website to help you (and those you care about) be safe, secure, and responsible online. Its resources for parents include kids and mobile phones, parental controls, and kids and computer security.

Tips for Practitioners

The AAP recognizes that media can contribute substantially to many different risks and health problems. In the 2013 AAP Policy Statement on Children, Adolescents, and the Media, the AAP recommends that pediatricians and other health care providers become educated about the public health risks of media exposure.

The statement suggests screening questions that clinicians could use to assess media use and, if necessary, provide age-appropriate guidance for parents and the adolescent.20 The questions include:

  1. How much recreational screen time does your teenager consume daily?
  2. Is there a TV set or an Internet-connected electronic device (computer, iPad, mobile phone) in the teenager’s bedroom?

For adolescents who demonstrate aggressive behavior, are overweight, using substances, or having difficulties in school, the AAP also recommends that pediatricians take detailed media histories.20

1 The Neilsen Company. (2013). The teen transition: Adolescents of today, adults of tomorrow. New York, NY: The Neilsen Company. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

2 Lenhart, A. (2012). Teens and online video: Shooting, sharing, streaming and chatting--social media using teens are the most enthusiastic users of many online video capabilities. Washington DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

3 Lenhart, A. (2012). Teens, smartphones, and texting: Texting volume is up while the frequency of voice calling is down. About one in four teens say they own smartphones. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

4 Vahlberg, V. (2010). Fitting into their lives: A survey of three studies about youth media usage. Arlington, VA: Newspaper Association of America Foundation. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

5 Rideout, V., Foehr, U. G., & Roberts, D. F. (2010 ). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

6 Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Duggan, M., Cortesi, S., & Gasser, U. (2013). Teens and technology 2013. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

7 American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011). Policy statement--Children, adolescents, obesity, and the media. Pediatrics, 128(1), 201-208. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

8 Brown, J., & Bobkowski, P. (2011). Older and newer media: Patterns of use and effects on adolescents' health and well-being. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 95-113. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

9 O'Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, 127, 800-804. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

10 Romer, D., Bagdasarov, Z., & More, E. (2013). Older versus newer media and the well-being of United States youth: Results from a National Longitudinal Panel. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(5), 613-619. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

11 Strasburger, V. C., Jordan, A. B., & Donnerstein, E. (2010). Health effects of media on children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 125(4), 756-767. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

12 Collins, R. L., Elliot, M. N., Berry, S. H., Kanouse, D. E., & Hunter, S. B. (2003). Entertainment television as a healthy sex educator: The impact of condom-efficacy information in an episode of Friends. Pediatrics, 112(5), 1115-1121. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

13 Valente, T. W., Murphy, S., Huang, G., Gusek, J., Greene, J., & Beck, V. (2007). Evaluating a minor storyline on ER about teen obesity, hypertension, and 5 a day. Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, 12(6). Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

14 Latimer, A. E., Krishnan-Sarin, S., Cavallo, D. A., Duhig, A., Salovey, P., & O'Malley, S. A. (2011). Targeted smoking cessation messages for adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(1), 47-52. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

15 Holzinger, A., Dorner, S., Fodinger, M., Valdez, A. C., & Ziefle, M. (2010). Chances of increasing youth health awareness through mobile wellness applications. HCI in Work and Learning, Life and Leisure, 6389, 71-81. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

16 Chomutare, T., Fernandez-Luque, L., Arsand, E., & Hartvigsen, G. (2011). Features of mobile diabetes applications: Review of the literature and analysis of current applications compared against evidence-based guidelines. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13(3). Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

17 Levine, D. (2011). Using technology, new media, and mobile for sexual and reproductive health. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 8(1). Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

18 Mayo Clinic. (2011). Children and TV: Limiting your child's screen time. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

19 American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Communications and Media. (2010). Policy statement—Media education. Pediatrics, 126(5). Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

20 American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Communications and Media. (2013). Children, adolescents, and the media. Pediatrics, 132, 958-961. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from

21 Bleakley, A., Jordan, A. B., & Hennessy, M. (2013). The relationship between parents' and children's television viewing. Pediatrics, 132, e364-e371. Retrieved November 20, 2013, from


Last updated: March 10, 2016