How lower-income US kids use media to connect

Common Sense Media's new report shows what media usage looks like for lower-income African-American and Latino tweens and teens in the US.
October 25, 2016

Following its 2015 Media Use By Tweens and Teens census report, industry nonprofit Common Sense Media has released new research that digs deeper into the media use of lower-income African-American and Latino tweens and teens in the US.

In Connection and Control: Case Studies of Media Use Among Lower-Income Minority Youth and Parents, the real lives of 11 African-American and Latino kids between the ages of 11 and 15 were examined in order to see how the cohort uses media to make space from, and connect with, family.

Among the findings, the report revealed that entertainment-based TV shows, movies, music, games and books can help the well-being of a child who is living in a neighborhood with a high violent crime rate.

It also found that mobile devices for tweens and teens are meaningful tools for communication. For example, one of the case studies revealed that a 14-year-old girl living with her foster mother gets relief by texting frequently with her birth parents.

Looking from an adult perspective, the report found that parents manage kids’ media use regardless of their own tech knowledge. For example, one tech-savvy parent said she has no problem checking her kids’ search histories, controlling their data usage on a schedule and downloading software to monitor their whereabouts.

But in another case study, a foster mother with less digital media know-how explained how she would call the phone company directly to put her daughter’s phone on standby when she wanted to take her data privileges away.

Additional insights show the importance of internet access in the daily lives of today’s tweens and teens, as one case study revealed how a 15-year-old uses three apps to make her travel time to and from school more efficient.

In other case studies, YouTube was used by teens to learn new dance moves, a computer helped a 14-year-old girl find the GPA and PSAT requirements for one of the universities she would like to attend, and a tween brother-sister pair living in a shelter determined their sleeping patterns around the strength of their Wi-Fi access.

The ongoing digital divide within the US is continuously being researched and documented. In February, for example, a¬†study from Sesame Workshop’s Joan Ganz Cooney Center revealed that under-connected internet access among low-income American families is having a far-reaching impact when it comes to education and economic opportunities. Among the findings was the fact that families headed by Hispanic immigrants are less connected than other low- and moderate-income families, as one in 10¬†immigrant Hispanic families have no internet access at all, compared with 7% of US-born Hispanics.

About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at



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