Always Connected: Young Children’s Media Use on the Rise

Report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop Finds Young Children Are Embracing Mobile Media, Broaden Their Media Behaviors by Age Eight

(New York – March 14, 2011) With the media landscape rapidly changing, Sesame Workshop and The Joan Ganz Cooney Center today released the report Always Connected which examines the media usage patterns of young children. Among the report’s findings is evidence that media consumption patterns change considerably around age eight as children are developmentally able to engage in activities for longer periods of time, have more advanced motor skills and are developing more complex social relationships. Results also show that television is still the most frequently used medium, but mobile devices are becoming increasingly more popular with children. Four of the top five electronic devices owned by children are mobile platforms.

Always Connected takes a fresh look at data from seven studies – some never before released -from Sesame Workshop, The Cooney Center, Kaiser Family Foundation, The Nielsen Company and others to generate an assessment of the role of media in children’s lives today. Findings include:

·         Children are using media more than ever before on a variety of platforms. Almost 25 percent of young children (ages 0 to 5) use the internet at least once a week and just under half of all 6-year-olds play video games. In addition, media multitasking is becoming predominant with about 36 percent of children ages 2 to 11 using television and the internet simultaneously.

·         Television continues to be the favorite medium. Almost nine out of ten children over age 5 are viewers. They are watching at least three hours of television a day.

·         Digital divides are still prevalent. A gap remains in access to technologies especially among low income and ethnic minority children and also notable differences in usage. The current economic climate may be widening this gap.

Based on the findings, the Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop offer several recommendations in the report for parents, researchers and developers:

·         Guide the media balancing act. As digital media’s place in young children’s lives has become more ubiquitous, research-based guidance for parents has not kept up. New research and best practices must be developed to help adults direct children’s media usage.

·         Unite generations in learning together. Studies have shown the positive impact of television co-viewing on children’s learning and healthy development. Media producers have a new opportunity and responsibility to develop digital media content to promote more adult-child interaction.

·         Investigate how technology can bridge home and school learning. Children spend a significant portion of their time outside of school using media. More research is needed to understand how technology can be used to enhance and connect education into a more continuous experience.

“My mother used to say that too much of anything isn’t good for you, whether it be eating only protein, shooting hoops all day or “always being connected” to the digital world. There is no escaping the fact that parents need to moderate children’s media use and the content they choose,” said Dr. Lewis Bernstein, Executive Vice President, Education, Research and Outreach, Sesame Workshop. “Producers need to exercise judgment and taste and the educational establishment needs to recognize the potential for life-long learning that media represents and begin to harness it.”

“In the digital age there is a new fact of life: young children are active participants in the technological innovation that shapes family experiences. Promoting a healthy, educationally sound media diet will require a new commitment­ – starting at home, but also among producers of digital products, educators and policymakers – to ensure that every child has what it takes to succeed in a modern learning environment, right from the start,” said Dr. Michael Levine, Executive Director, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center.

Always Connected was written by Aviva Lucas Gutnick, Michael Robb, Lori Takeuchi and Jennifer Kotler. The report is available for download at

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is an independent, non-profit research group that is fostering innovation in children’s learning through digital media. The center conducts and supports research, creates educational models and interactive media properties, and builds cross-sector partnerships. It is named for Sesame Workshop’s founder, who revolutionized television with the creation of Sesame Street. Core funding is provided by the generous support of Peter G. Peterson and Sesame Workshop.

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization that revolutionized children’s television programming with the landmark Sesame Street. The Workshop produces local Sesame Street programs, seen in over 140 countries, and other acclaimed shows to help bridge the literacy gap including The Electric Company. Beyond television, the Workshop produces content for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and military deployment. Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning. Learn more at