Most Americans are guilty of having a voracious thirst for information and entertainment, which is quickly quenched by a nearby screen and/or speaker of some sort. But the need to stay “plugged in” has gotten so fierce, to the point where the American Academy of Pediatrics recently put out a statement urging greater awareness by parents and doctors about the extent that children and teenagers are exposed media. The organization emphasized the clear evidence showing the risks, health problems, and negative influences that stem from tons of media — including obesity, lack of sleep, poor school performance, and behavioral problems.
Now another recent report by USC Marshall School of Business seems to have put the nail into the coffin of doubt about excessive media exposure. Based on their assessment of growth in media consumption by consumers between 2008 and 2012, the Institute for Communication Technology Management (CTM) projected that Americans will consume more than 1.7 trillion hours of media in 2015. This equates to an average of 15.5 hours per person per day.
The report distinguished how various sources of media contributed to this exposure by considering the (now) more traditional devices (TV, radio, voice calls) to the digital toys that are always on one's person (tablet computers, mobile gaming devices, and smartphones). “Despite the popular belief that the ubiquitous computer and smartphone dominate modern media life, traditional media, including TV, radio and voice calls, still account for two-thirds of total U.S. household media time,” lead researcher, James Short, stated in a press release. “Of course the picture is a changing one as digital platforms continue to grow, but they are still only a third of total annual media time.”
This surprising ratio changed when media was converted from time to the amount of bytes of information presented to a consumer. In this light, over half of all the information is spat out by computers while mobile computers showed a rapid rise. This also means that the average consumer will get hit by 8.75 zettabytes of media in 2015, which translates to 74 gigabytes (information contained in nine DVDs) on a typical day.
While it will likely be difficult to parse the effect of this daily barrage of information, a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine did find an association between youth obesity and receptiveness to TV fast food advertising. While the observed trend between advertising receptivity and obesity remained a chicken-or-egg issue, the lead author of the study, Auden McClure, claimed that understanding media influences is still very important in controlling youth obesity. “The more we know about how marketing influences teens and young adults,” she said in a press release, “the better able we are as parents and pediatricians at helping young people to navigate the influx of marketing messages and make good choices.”