Study: Devices distract kids

Kids tuned in to even more gizmos

Hollywood is already struggling with ways to grab the attention of consumers distracted by too many screens. But it’s about to get worse.

Kids age 4-14 are glued to cell phones, digital music players, laptop computers and videogame consoles more than ever before, according to a study released by the NPD Group.

While television and computers remain the top two electronics devices used by kids, those in the study’s age bracket own, on average, 11 of the devices that were measured in the report, reflecting just how many screens are competing for their attention.

Indeed, kids are viewing so many screens now that they have to allot how much of their time is spent using each device. In the past, the big decision for kids was which one device to adopt.

There’s no sign of the trend reversing anytime soon, the research org said, considering that one-third of parents plan to buy a consumer electronics device for their child in the coming year. Those include everything from educational learning toys for younger kids to cell phones and digital cameras for the tween and teen set.

The report also found that computers are being shared less by families and that more kids now possess their own laptops.

For showbiz, there’s bad news and good news.

Marketers at studios and television networks will have to work overtime and spend more of their ad dollars to promote new properties to an increasingly distracted audience.

On the other hand, increased usage of various devices means there’s an audience on more platforms via which content creators can distribute their projects, thus creating a greater opportunity to generate revenue — at least eventually.

A previous NPD study had found that kids spend most of their leisure time watching or interacting with entertainment, with 34 hours each week spent playing videogames, listening to music or watching movies.

“Consumer electronic devices are great, but content is the key driver that will help continue the growth of the kids market, particularly digital content, which goes hand-in-hand with portable devices,” said Anita Frazier, an industry analyst with NPD Group. “The increase in usage of portable devices opens up more opportunity to distribute digital content.”

Kids are gravitating to digital music, or watching TV shows, musicvideos and online video clips on YouTube and Hulu, NPD said, adding that there’s a growing opportunity to produce more high-definition TV programming for kids and digital music fare for preschoolers.

Other findings in the study:

n Some 46% of kids using cell phones are text messaging or sending photos;

  •  When it comes to digital music, 30% of kids own a personal digital music player like an iPod or Zune, vs. 6% in 2005;

n Use of instant messaging is on a decline because of texting on cell phones and more time spent on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook;

n As for gaming, more than 37% of kids own a portable gaming device like a Nintendo DS or PlayStation PSP, while 26% own their own videogame console like Nintendo’s Wii, Xbox 360 or a PlayStation. They’re spending less time playing software-based games on their computers, opting for online and virtual games instead.

“The activity which drives two of the three most-used consumer electronics devices, computers and videogame console systems, is gaming. Playing games is an activity that kids enjoy across most of these devices,” Frazier said.

NPD conducted the study online in April, surveying 3,212 adults age 23 and older with children 4-14 in their household.

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