Jan. 20, 2010— -- Researchers have seen the future ... and everyone is watching YouTube.
The average kid sponges in 2.5 hours of music each day, almost five hours of TV and movies, three hours of Internet and video games, and just 38 minutes of old-fashioned reading, according to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
That adds up to 75 hours of media every week. And that doesn't even include the hour and a half spent text messaging each day, and the half hour kids talk on the cell phone.
In fact, the cell phone is one of the gadgets that makes this all possible for kids.
"You don't have to sit down in front of a TV anymore and watch television at the time a show is broadcast," said Vicky Rideout of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "Kids can watch it on their laptop, in their bedroom. They can watch it on their cell phone on the bus to school."
But what about homework?
Kids at New York City's Taylor Day school said all the technology can be a distraction.
"Sometimes, if you're trying to study and you're on Facebook," one student said, "all of a sudden you don't have time to get work done."
It turns out members of the multitasking generation pays a price for their digital lives on their report cards. Among the heaviest media users, about half get C's or lower in school, while only a quarter of light users report bad grades.
Ten-year-old Katie Semac is holding off on getting a Facebook page.
"There's plenty of time for that down the road," she said.
Limits on Technology Use
Katie's parents set down some rules for her.
"We don't want to stifle her curiosity," he dad added. "She's great at self monitoring."
Katie and her watchful parents are in the minority. Only a third of kids surveyed said their parents put limits on TV or computer use.
But maybe parents should pay more attention. When parents do provide even minimal guidelines, it has a real impact: Kids' media consumption drops by nearly three hours a day.
Even so, it's clear that today's kids live in a very different world than the generations before them.
ABC News mentioned to a group of kids today that years ago, kids would even play with a stick. It could become a slingshot, a pistol, a claw or anything else they could dream up.
One boy's response: "Maybe if it was a virtual stick."